REVIEW: ‘ER’ remains most realistically talented depiction of life’s hardships

Noah Wyle starred as Dr. John Carter in the critically-acclaimed NBC series ‘ER.” Wyle stayed with the program for 11 seasons. Promotional artwork courtesy of Warner Brothers.

When you do everything you can, sometimes more than you thought you could, you’ve got to walk away knowing you fought the good fight. You fought the good fight, and tomorrow, you’ll fight another one.” — Dr. John Carter. 

Miraculously written by Michael Crichton, ER has steadily remained one of the best medical dramas ever produced. Encompassing witty humor, grave situations, and abundant chaos, ER’s methodical use of climactic reality truly reigns the viewer into the emergency room experience. Whether it be the studious doctor or the withering patient, you will understand for yourself the amount of hard work and raw emotion the emergency room encapsulates. 

While this engrossing production has been around for almost 30 years, many of the themes and morals within still hold true today. It’s an emotional tale of right versus wrong, good versus evil, hope versus despair. Given the current state of this country and other parts of the world who face a pandemic, seeing the difficulties within an emergency room can shed light on the seriousness of illnesses and how it affects a vast majority of people. With so many healthcare workers doing their job each and every day battling at the front lines of this pandemic, this show is a great representation to help you truly understand the horrors and situations medical workers go through each and every day. 

Taking place in Chicago’s County General Hospital, you get to watch the authentic lives of doctors and nurses unfold before your eyes. ER is known for not following a specific character’s life around, instead, following the entirety of the emergency room staff around and how their lives intermingle with one another. You encounter many ranging viewpoints, creating such a realistic atmosphere of human beings who are ultimately different from one another. This genius move creates for some of the best character arcs and redemptions you’ll ever seen in a production. That being said, there are only a couple characters that are in all 15 seasons of ER (Dr. John Carter — played by Noah Wyle and Dr. Kerry Weaver — played by Laura Innes), making this show all the more realistic to everyday life. Whether it be finding a new job, personal affairs, or even death, ER is a blend of life’s harshest realities. The brutal tones flavored within keep viewers enraptured to what will happen next — and keeps them attached to such admirably relatable characters. 

ER’s production team did a phenomenal job at keeping up with current decade trends as the show progressed over 15 years. From 90’s classic heartthrob hairstyles and minimalist fashion to the early 2000’s suave blowouts and laid-back tastes, this show has something for everyone; be it those who experienced those decades themselves or even the younger generations who simply enjoy America’s past aesthetics. Take mister classic himself, George Clooney — a man popular both in the 90’s and today. Portraying the humorously stubborn Dr. Doug Ross, Clooney will unite young and old generations through his immaculate performance of a charismatic doctor.

Another incredible performance worth mentioning is none other than Noah Wyle as Dr. Carter. Wyle portrays Carter as the typical sweetly arrogant young man, fresh out of med school, with dreams of saving as many people as possible. Throughout the seasons of ER, it is argued that Wyle’s character faces the most trauma and difficulties. Whether it be near death experiences, front row seats to his closest friends’ deaths, or even a strife with drug addiction, Noah Wyle depicts it all in this chaotic drama. Viewers watch as Carter perseveres through the obstacles that come his way, facing each difficulty with pride for his work and what he does.

Wyle encapsulates what it means to be someone like Dr. Carter — a man with much too big a heart and much too little a sense of when to quit. From a stubborn trust fund kid to an appreciative, empathetic man, Dr. Carter’s character arcs will truly seduce viewers into staying for each and every season. There’s no denying Wyle is one of the most talented actors of this century, having been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and five Primetime Emmy Awards, all for his performance in ER

As previously mentioned, ER doesn’t follow one specific character around. Rather, it encompasses over 30 uniquely important characters in total over the course of 15 seasons — focusing on how those characters’ interactions with one another impact the course of the show and each other’s lives. While fans of the show definitely influenced  certain aspects of the show (such as characters who remained on the show longer compared to others), ER was produced with the intention of the script being made and altered as the show progressed. Michael Crichton’s main focus for this show was spontaneity, and while it remained evidently factual regarding the procedures and dramatics that took place, sequences of a character’s experience were only planned weeks ahead of time. That’s what makes ER so alluring: it’s a lot like real life. No matter how much you plan your lives ahead of time, other things simply happen that get in the way of those plans. You learn, you adapt, and you push forward. Crichton really embraced that part of life into this show, which honestly makes this production all the more fascinating. 

There is no doubt that ER is one of the best television shows ever produced. Between intricate character arcs and developments to the authentic lifestyles the actors depicted, ER has plenty for everyone. Experience the good and the bad, the rights and the wrongs, the hopes and the miseries. It’s a show about human beings,  made for human beings, by human beings. Experience the truth to healthcare workers’ livelihoods — the very people who have put their heart and soul on the line each and every day for people just like you. You’ll never experience a depiction of reality more true than this.

After all, ”this place grows on you” — Dr. John Carter.

ER is rated TV-14.

Kaitlyn Riley is a pop culture critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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