This intense yet traditional
medical series, set in the emergency room of Chicago's County General Hospital,
was the surprise hit of the 1994-1995 season. Perhaps it had simply been too
long since TV had a good, by-the-book doctor show. Though ER broke no new
dramatic ground, it oozed adrenaline,
projecting the breathless, high-pressure environment in which a group of
young doctors struggled to save lives while trying to maintain their own
emotional balance. There was a great deal of yelling and running down corridors,
as blood spurted and doctors rattled off diagnoses ("Anterior and lateral right
lower extremity, femur articulation, patella, tibia, fibula all appear
about were Ross, the womanizing, dreamboat pediatrician at the center
of much of the action, both in the ER and out; Greene, the earnest
chief resident, whose job stress was augmented by that of his home life
with his demanding lawyer-wife, Jennifer; Lewis, the straight-arrow resident
still looking for Mr. Right; Benton, the brusque, demanding black super-surgeon;
Carter, the wide-eyed, sometimes inept (though not when it really counted) first-year resident assigned to Benton; Hathaway,
the troubled chief nurse, who nearly OD'd in the first episode; and Morgenstern,
the predictably crusty head of the ER (replaced by Swift in the spring of 1995).
Stories mostly revolved around the
tangled romantic relationships of the doctors and staff, set against their
heroics in the ER. During the first two years Greene's wife left, returned, and
eventually left again, for good. Lewis had a fling with manic-depressive Cvetic,
then adopted her drug-addicted sister Chloe's abandoned daughter, fighting to
keep the child when the "cleaned up" Chloe returned with her husband. Hathaway
became engaged to Taglieri, but dumped him at the altar, later taking up with
playful paramedic Shep. Benton, in between terrorizing interns, had to deal with
his deteriorating mother, Mae, hiring physical therapist Boulet to look after
her. Ross slept with almost every female in sight, his personal irresponsibility
nearly getting him fired on several occasions. His heroism in a pinch always
saved the day, however.
During the second season, the
rapidly maturing Carter became a doctor, and had an affair with intern Tracy.
Benton joined eminent Dr. Vucelich in his research work, only to discover the
latter was faking test results; turning on him almost cost Benton his job. He
sought solace in Boulet's arms, only to learn that she was HIV-positive due to
her philandering husband. Fortunately, she had not infected Benton.
In the 1996 season, Greene
pursued Lewis, who departed for Arizona, leaving him to play the field. At the
end of the season he was severely beaten by an unknown assailant, who was
apparently angry over the death of a patient in his care. Hard-driving Benton
had a tough year. Dismissed from a prestigious team by Keaton, he caused the
suicide of a young intern, Gant, then found himself the father of Carla's baby
Reese, who was born deaf. Ross's downward spiral continued as a one-night stand
died while with him, and he was forced to tell the authorities he didn't even
know her name. He attempted to redeem himself by helping a 14-year-old escape
prostitution, but botched it. The 1997 season began with a highly publicized
live telecast, in which a documentary film crew followed Greene around the ER.
Benton cared for his deaf baby, while working for the manipulative Romano and
having an interracial affair with English surgeon Corday. Carter had a
tempestuous relationship with Del Amico, while Chief Resident Weaver faced a
crisis when she was forced by new hospital boss Anspaugh to lay off staff. She
started with Boulet, which was a mistake, since the latter claimed
discrimination (due to HIV-positive condition) and forced the hospital to
reinstate her. Ross got into his most serious trouble yet when he and Hathaway
performed an unauthorized ultra-rapid detox of a methadone-addicted infant. Put
on probation, he then helped a dying boy end his life, and was threatened with a
murder charge. Early in 1999, he left the hospital hoping that Hathaway would go
with him, but she didn't. Also in the 1998-1999 season, Hathaway opened a
clinic; Carter found himself supervising a wide-eyed resident (Knight); Corday
broke up with Benton and was demoted to intern by the vengeful Romano; and
bad-luck Boulet learned she had hepatitis C, as well as being HIV-positive.
During the 1999-2000 season,
Romano was promoted to chief of staff, wielding his new power with a vengeance.
Weaver became chief of the ER. Boulet and Moore were married. Hathaway gave
birth to twins, Chen returned (and eventually became chief resident), Greene
dealt with his dying father, nutty "Dr. Dave" Malucci caused an uproar, and
Knight and Carter were stabbed by a deranged patient. Knight died and Carter
took time to recover, struggling with a drug addiction problem brought on by the
trauma. The most dramatic development of 2000-2001 was no doubt Greene's
discovery that he had a brain tumor; girlfriend Corday stayed by his side
through the treatment, and in April they were married. Shortly thereafter, she
gave birth to baby Ella. Chen had a baby (which she put up for adoption), Weaver
announced she was a lesbian and Lewis returned to the ER after a five-year
The 2001-2002 season was pivotal
for Benton and Greene, both of whom had been mainstays of ER since the
beginning. Carla died in an accident and Benton discovered that he was not the
biological father of her son Reese after all. He won a nasty custody dispute,
but Romano refused to let him work reduced hours while he raised the deaf boy.
Forced to choose between his son and the ER, he quit in December and moved with
girlfriend Finch to the suburbs. Greene's ending was tragic. After a short
period of remission, his brain tumor returned and was diagnosed as inoperable.
With only a few months to live, he moved to Hawaii with his estranged
14-year-old daughter Rachel, hoping to spend his last days reconnecting with her
and revisiting the scenes of his youth. Corday had left him, but at the end she
returned and he died quietly in his sleep.
During 2002-2003, Romano was
seriously injured and forced to stop performing surgery, leading to the
promotion of Weaver.
Created by best-selling author Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park,
Rising Sun) and based on his own experiences as a medical student at Massachusetts