- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

ER‘ checks out

After 15 heart-wrenching seasons, “ER” is pulling the plug. NBC is sending the show off with a three-hour goodbye starting at 8 tonight on WRC-NBC 4.

But don’t wait until then. Join us as we walk down television lane and celebrate all the things that made “ER” an iconic piece of small-screen brilliance over the years. From death to love and plagues, the Detroit News recalls the most memorable and absurd moments the hospital drama had to offer.

Memorable deaths

No death proved sadder or more unforgettable than when Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) lost his life to a brain tumor in season eight. Other notable deaths include those of Dr. Robert Romano (Paul McCrane), who died when a helicopter fell on him in season 10, and Dr. Gregory Pratt (Mekhi Phifer), who expired because of injuries he sustained in an explosion in season 15. There also was surgical intern Dennis Gant (Omar Epps), who jumped in front of a train and committed suicide in the third season.

Hookups

The stress levels seemed only to enhance these libidinous docs. Not to be confused with lasting relationships, hookups occur all the time on “ER.” Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) once got friendly with Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle); then, after marrying Dr. Luka Kovac (Goran Visnjic), she had an affair with Dr. Kevin Moretti (Stanley Tucci). Dr. Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston) had a thing with Dr. Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle), but she married Dr. Greene. Later, she kissed Dr. Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes).

Guest stars

This series is known for its A-list guest stars. In turn, both Sally Field and Ray Liotta have won Emmy Awards for their guest-starring turns. Other memorable guest stars have included James Woods, Rosemary Clooney, Forest Whitaker and Don Cheadle.

Ratings

The largest audience “ER” ever attracted was 47.8 million viewers when it aired after the series finale of “Seinfeld” in 1998. Over the years, the show has gone up and down Nielsen’s charts like that squiggly heart-monitor line. At its best, the show was No. 1 in earlier seasons, but in recent years, it has fallen as low as 49th place.

Heartthrobs

No one on “ER” has been lusted after as much as movie star and former cast member George Clooney. Overall, though, casting directors have not disappointed us with the eye candy. Among the notable hotties: Mr. Visnjic, Mr. Epps, John Stamos, Shane West and Mr. Phifer.

Plagues and attacks

Nearly every horror has engulfed the emergency room of County General and its staff, including a smallpox scare (seasons eight and nine), a threat via an Army tank (season 10), a shooting spree (seasons seven and 12) and a hostage situation (seasons 12 and 13). Moreover, there has been at least one explosion and car crash every other season.

Returns

No one has returned to Chicago’s County General Hospital more than Mr. Wyle. Mr. Clooney has returned a couple of times, as have Mr. La Salle and Julianne Margulies. Not even death can stop returns on this show. For instance, Mr. Edwards’ and Mr. McCrane’s characters are deceased, but they both came back in flashbacks this season.

Casting

When Mr. Clooney left, critics and fans alike thought the show was a goner. But casting directors proved they knew better by adding some pretty impressive and diverse names to the mix, including John Leguizamo, Parminder Nagra, Michael Michele, Ming-Na Wen and Angela Bassett.

Freak accidents

Dr. Romano’s death was freaky, but one season before a helicopter fell on him (season 10), another one chopped off one of his arms. A few seasons later, Dr. Ray Barnett (Mr. West) lost his legs when he drunkenly wandered into traffic and got hit by a car (season 13).

Marriages

Dr. Greene and Dr. Corday (Miss Kingston) had an eventful wedding surrounded by bad weather and squabbling in-laws (season seven). A few seasons later, Dr. Kovak (Mr. Visnjic) had to trick Dr. Lockhart’s Abby, a former nurse who completed her medical degree in season 10, into tying the knot by forcing the staff into a mandatory department meeting that turned out to be their wedding (season 13).

Awards

“ER” has won 10 Emmys, including one for outstanding drama series; three Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America awards; and one Golden Globe.

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