It's still hard to believe that "ER" will end tonight after 15 years of blood, guts and drama.
Since its debut in 1994 -- yes, the same year Tonya Harding's ex-husband ordered the attack on Nancy Kerrigan and South Africa elected Nelson Mandela -- "ER" changed the landscape of the medical drama. In its heyday, episodes of "ER" had more than 30 million viewers each week, which is only slightly less that the 2008 population of California.
As someone who has probably watched most, if not all, the episodes of the show, I'm not sure what I want out of the series finale. I can, however, tell you what I don't want to see and that's a "St. Elsewhere"-type ending. (Or apparently a "Life on Mars" ending, which surpasses St. Elsewhere for ridiculous and outlandish plots). I also don't need a 10-years-later flash-forward or a group hug in the ambulance bay. In fact, I'd be more than happy if they ended in the middle of a major medical trauma with the camera zooming out through the ER doors one last time. At least, that way, "ER" will end the way it started -- chaotic, always moving and, in a way, constant.
Of course, a dash of sentimentality is expected, but nothing too tear-inducing. With that in mind, here are my top five favorite things about "ER" from 15-year run.
1. Doug Ross (George Clooney). Move over, McDreamy. Clooney's Ross set the bar high for well-coifed, womanizing television doctors and he did with it heart. High point: saving a drowning kid from a drainage pipe in a tuxedo.
2. Guest stars galore. From the mundane -- Mariska Hargitay of "Law and Order: SVU" fame as a receptionist -- to the memorable -- Cynthia Nixon as a stroke patient, a guest list for "ER" is like a who's-who of Hollywood. Most recently we saw Susan Sarandon as a grieving grandmother and tonight's finale features "Gilmore Girls" star Alexis Bledel.
3. Freakish accidents. There was the tank. The various shooting sprees. The occasional sprinkler incident. The time Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) and his med student Lucy got stabbed. But nothing could top the episode where Dr. Romano (Paul McCrane) lost his arm in a freak helicopter accident. There really was no better way to shut up the show's resident misogynistic racist jerk. It was so successful a move that Romano was killed off by a second freak chopper accident next season when it exploded over the hospital.
4. Crazy medical stuff! From the monkey pox epidemic that shut down the hospital for weeks to the time surgeons accidentally biopsied a pair of testicles from a female patient, "ER" had all the strange medical mysteries and the jargon to boot. (If I'm ever in an ER, I expect the doctors to order a CBC, a chest x-ray and a chem panel, stat!)
5. New faces. "ER" did a great job of transitioning its original cast and adding new members to the point that you expected it. Sure, Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway were missed, but, Luka Kovac a.k.a. the Hot Croatian Doctor and Abby Lockhart were perfect replacements as the it-"ER" couple. In the end, we'll be as sad to say goodbye to John Stamos' Dr. Gates as we are to bid farewell to Dr. Carter.
The "ER" series finale airs tonight at 8 p.m. A special retrospective will air at 7 p.m. on NBC.
--Malavika Jagannathan, firstname.lastname@example.org