Welcome the next installment of my year-long look back at a decade defined by its extremes. Rap versus grunge; mullets versus pixies; Saved by the Bell versus NYPD Blue – the 1990s had it all, and then some. Every other week I’ll be reminiscing about some facet of the 1990s, potentially drowning in some ill-forgotten nostalgia despite my best efforts otherwise. Serving as inspiration is an utterly ridiculous but nonetheless intriguing list created by Huffington Post — 1990 Things from the 90s to End the Nostalgia Once and for All – and I’ll be using a random number generator to pick each week’s “topic.” So don’t have a cow, man, if I ask you to talk to the hand while take this sweet ride through the 90s. Word to your mother.
Week 16: HuffPost list #93 – “ER”
Finally, something I know! Well, maybe not know know, but know well enough to formulate at least a few coherent sentences.
For me, TV is often more about the people with whom I’m watching it rather than the shows themselves. That was the case with the 1990s medical drama that kicked off a ton of imitations in varying forms, ER. I liked the show just fine, what with it’s high-intensity drama among people saving people, but I liked watching the show much more with my college roommates, especially since it prompted such notable discussions as to who was more hot: George Clooney, Noah Wyle, or Eriq LaSalle. (Clooney might have had the looks, but Eriq had the build, and Noah had just the cutest face!)
If you want to praise 1990s TV, adding ER to an already great Thursday night line-up (“Must See TV”) in late 1994 was undoubtedly smart on NBC’s part. With Mad About You, Friends, and Seinfeld on the roster, topping things off with ER was the perfect finish. You laughed, laughed, and laughed at all the silly sitcom hijinx, but you went to bed thinking about more meaty affairs, like how nice it would be to be staring to to Noah Wyle’s beautiful eyes.
You think I’m being facetious, but seriously, shows like ER, Chicago Hope, and Gray’s Anatomy didn’t stick around because everyone was super excited to find out what would happen to the latest gunshot victim in the trauma ward. No. Real-life medical situations are terrifying and ugly. These are all shows about beautiful people doing dramatic and daring things. Things we could never do ourselves because we are not that smart, or that brave, or that beautiful. TV shows like it are a sham, and they are shams we happily devour. Because everything on TV is better, more perfect, and more beautiful.
And apparently that’s my personal treatise on televisions shows.
I don’t really have a point to make here, other than to say I really enjoyed watching ER with my friends right when ER was something new and exciting. Something different from your regular TV dramas. At the time I was a sophomore in college, and I ended up living with the same sat of roommates through senior year. I doubt we watched the show with as much regularity as my nostalgia says, but when we were all together on a Thursday night, watching ER with a few wine coolers was a thing. A good thing.
After college, ER came and went. I ended up in a job where I worked nights, so watching primetime TV was no longer on the ol’ to-do list. I do recall the show going through it’s many casting iterations, what with George Clooney taking off to be a movie star (guess you could say it worked out), and Noah Wyle eventually doing the same (“The Librarian,” anyone?). I returned to the show briefly during the “Luka” era (man, did the world ever fall head over heels for some Goran Visnjic), but by then medical dramas were a dime a dozen, and reality show dramatics saturated all the channels, so the fixation to watch it all the time just wasn’t there. By the time the show ended in 2009, I barely remember it was still even airing.
Giving credit where credit is due, ER did kickstart something, from several people’s careers to breathing new life into the television drama. Even if my own reason for watching proved to be a bit shallow, the bonds it forged in my social circle were second to none. Sure, Noah Wyle’s dreamy smile was cool, but he wasn’t the one sitting next to me.