Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why E.R.?

I have taken so much crapolo from Vigilante over the years about watching E.R.

What doesn't he get?


So, I am inserting the money parts of television critic Mary Mcnamara's Haunting First Season Show Leaves A Lasting Impact. As McNamara writes,
One gut-wrenching episode from 1995 still packs a powerful punch, and a fragility-of-life lesson too.
I recall that episode.

Apologizing for ellipses:

I remember the moment when I realized film could make horror beautiful and thus even more horrifying . . . But not like I remember the moment I understood how powerful and long-lasting an hour of television could be.

The 20th episode of the first season of "ER" is titled "Love's Labor Lost," but if you meet a woman over 30, or any OB-GYN, all you have to do is put your hands on your lower belly and say "that 'ER,' " and they will smile grimly and nod. . . .

As with any episode of "ER," there was a tangle of story lines, but the only one that mattered begins when a couple, .... Dr. Mark Greene ( Anthony Edwards) tells her it's probably just a bladder infection and sends her on her way. Other stuff happens -- Dr. Benton's mother had a broken hip, which causes him much concern -- and the pregnant woman has a seizure in the parking lot. Nothing seems terribly dire even then -- she stabilizes and after speaking with her OB-GYN, Greene decides to induce.

As the episode unfurls, one thing goes wrong and then another -- the baby's shoulder gets stuck, the mother's blood pressure drops -- until a panicked Greene performs a brutal emergency C-section ... Although the baby is saved, the woman dies, her body transformed from living person into scooped-out husk in a matter of moments.

When I saw that episode, pregnancy could not have been further from my mind. But I felt like the federal government should have issued a warning to all women of child-bearing years, preferably from loudspeakers on every street corner. I remember creeping to my phone and calling all my female friends until I found someone who had seen it so we could talk each other down. I remember it taking a very long time.

It wasn't the gore or even the reminder of how tenuous pregnancy can still be in this modern age. It was how writer Lance Gentile and director Mimi Leder had collaborated to cause the whole terrifying, mind-blowing thing to creep up on me. To remind me that tragedy is not necessarily accompanied by a spray of bullet-shattered glass or a solemn diagnosis. Tragedy lurks in the corner of every decision, every bit of hurried advice; tragedy doesn't always occur, sometimes it just accumulates -- until it fills the room and then empties it.

I turned on the TV to watch that season's sexy new medical drama, and there I was, shaking and dry-mouthed and my life would never be the same.

Now I have had a lifelong issue with personal hyperbole, but that last bit turned out to be true. Over the years, I have thought about "Love's Labor Lost" a lot, and not just during my three pregnancies. I think about it when my children get sick or when I'm driving on the freeway. I think about it when I'm feeling sorry for myself after a disappointing day and when things are going so great it seems wise to worry.

I think about that woman and how it started with an ache and the need to pee and ended in evisceration. I think about how frail the human body is and how we all carry within us our own personalized episode of "Love's Labor Lost."

Inevitably, through a series of events that will probably start with something unremarkable -- a headache, a weird cough, the decision to change lanes -- it will be me in that final shot. With any luck, I'll be very old and not quite so hacked up, but who knows? So it's important to pay attention to what is happening right now, to participate in my life as it is right now.

Not only to ensure that something serious doesn't go wrong when I'm not looking -- there's no ensuring that -- but to know that I got the most out of my days when it finally does.

Not too bad for a 14-year-old single episode of network television.

E.R. 4-Ever!
  • I'm going to miss my weekly Thursday-at-Ten "date", that I have so enjoyed (in spite of the teasing I've taken from you).

  • For me, it was a treat that I anticipated each week and savored for that hour of television. Getting to "sit down", and peek into the "lives" these all too human characters "led", was a bit like reading an absorbing novel that has completely captured your interest and affection, but can only be read in weekly installments.

  • I thank the writers of ER for their creation of such moving and memorable story lines and characters, and I thank the actors and actresses for birthing those characters into such believable and engaging "people".

  • "Good on Ya", to everyone connected with the gift that is ER's fifteen seasons on NBC.
That's all I got to say!

5 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

I get it, Emily. I get it.

3/29/2009 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

I was surprised to learn recently that it was still on the air.

3/30/2009 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Love the medical drama but the soap opera stuff between the characters left me cold. All thing considered it was a great show.

3/30/2009 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger MadMike said...

I used to watch ER, most religiously, and I'm not even a little bit religious, but like Beach I enjoyed the medical drama. Once it turned into a soap opera I stopped watching it.

Gray's Anatomy almost fell into the same trap with its silly ghost sequences, that turned out to be medical symptoms, but I stuck with it.

4/02/2009 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Stella said...

Emily, I completely understand, except my absolute addiction is Law & Order—all of them.

Damn, it's good to "see" y'all.

4/03/2009 03:23:00 PM  

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