Covid-19 and the national lockdown that a lot of us have gone through have allowed many of us to fill our days by catching up on some television that we may have missed, or in my case, that I can’t really remember watching.
ER ran for fifteen years, between 1994 and 2009. I know I watched it in the early days, and that I was still watching it when the millennium turned, but I couldn’t tell you when or for how long. Maybe three of four full seasons at the most. To be honest, it was on for so long, and it was one of the most successful shows of all time, so it feels like almost everyone my age has seen at least a handful of episodes.
What I do remember is that I was one of those hold-outs who were trying to tell everyone that Chicago Hope was the better medical show – newsflash: it isn’t, but it’s still worth watching.
Over the last few months I have been taking it all in from the start. I’m halfway through Season Six – so only 125 of the 332 episodes it produced – and although there are a lot of major story beats that I can remember (including one I’m just about to get to – sorry Lucy…) most of it feels new. And for the most part, it holds up extremely well. It’s no wonder that it is considered the genesis of modern medical shows.
Consuming the show in such a manner is certainly not revelatory these days – in fact, it’s almost exclusively how the generation coming up watch TV (if it’s even fair to call it TV, seeing as so much of what we digest is courtesy of Netflix or Prime, or any number of other streaming platforms) – but watching it this way means that I have zipped by six years of television in only a few months. If this was the nineties, I’d still be waiting for the Season One finale, and I wouldn’t yet have met Weaver, Korday or Luca, nor would I have lost Doug or Susan.
It’s funny to see characters discuss the internet and email, back when it was in its infancy, and mobile phones before they became ubiquitous, and it’s interesting to see how some characters have developed while others have stagnated and fallen into the background, the latter of which is the kind of thing the average viewer may not have noticed when there was a full week between episodes and a full four months between seasons, but when one episode just rolls into the next without you even leaving your seat, you pick up on these things.
There is certainly something to be said for the way we used to watch TV. You had time to anticipate what was going to happen, and you would talk about it with your family and friends. There’s really no such thing as a cliffhanger when there is literally no space between the fade-out of one episode and the fade-in of the next. I’m not sure the kids today would even have the attention span or patience necessary to deal with a show that only throws out one forty-two minute chunk every week. But I don’t think those days are coming back, so that’s probably all right.
Yes, I know. I’m just an old man yelling at clouds.
But grumpiness aside, if any of you haven’t seen ER – and there can’t be many of you – you really are missing some classic TV.