ER Series Finale: The Good, Bad & Ugly


The Good: By starting off the night’s “final ER event” with a retrospective featuring interviews from cast members both new and old, NBC did a remarkable job of ensuring that this TV Addict was in the proper frame of mind for my long awaited return to County General. So much so that by the time the opening notes of the show’s now iconic theme song played, I was pretty much in full-blown nostalgia mode, fighting off the urge during commercial breaks to order seasons 1 thru 10 on Amazon.

Much like the show’s groundbreaking series premiere, the John Wells penned finale offered up a frantic day-in-the-life in the “ER”, which provided every cast member, from stars like Dr. Gates (John Stamos), Sam Taggert (Linda Cardellini) and Dr. Morris (Scott Grimes) to familiar bit players such as Chuney (Laura Ceron), Haleh (Yvette Freeman), Frank (Troy Evans) and Jerry (Abraham Benrubi) with a moment to shine. Especially Frank, who quite possibly had the night’s most memorable moment upon realizing that the young girl standing before him was none other than Dr. Greene’s grown up daughter Rachel who had dropped by the “ER” to apply for a medical internship.

Adding to the nostalgia factor were the return of original series stars Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle), Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes), Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) and Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston) who were all on hand to witness John Carter (Noah Wyle) opening the doors of the Joshua Carter Center for Medicine.

The Bad: Perfectly encapsulating why I stopped watching ER years ago were the string of been there done that patients-of-the-week which included special guest star Ernest Borgnine saying farewell to his dying wife, Dr. Gates dressing down irresponsible parents whose lack of supervision at their daughter’s party resulted in a girl in an alcohol induced coma, and a mother of three sons who died while giving birth to the daughter the father had always wanted. Not to mention, the ridiculously predictable final scene, where a mass trauma brought with it a multitude of ambulances allowing for the camera to pan away slowly and show off the show’s unspoken starring character — the hospital itself.

The Ugly: That NBC didn’t end off the night by immediately announcing the launch of ER: THE NEXT GENERATION starring Alexis Bledel’s Dr. Julia Wise. We’re just sayin’

For all the latest TV news and reviews

  • Nick

    Well, we know the ratings will be blockbuster. So it’s a good thing Dawn Ostroff is not in charge of NBC. She gets a little hung up on Series Finale ratings, and decides to renew dead shows for another year based simply on the farewell tune-in numbers. The 7th Heaven decision simply foreshadowed one bad decision after another with this lady, and now she’s decided to make her network into Lifetime 2.

    Que sera sera.

  • grumpyoldman

    As a viewer of ER for only the last 5 years, I was bored by all the old cast coming back. I wanted to see closure for the current bunch of characters. At that, this episode was a miserable failure.

  • Ace

    grumpy — I thought about that while I was watching the retrospective last night. I was thinking “wow this is awesome, they are focusing on all of the people I loved 5 or 6 years ago when I still watched.” Then I realized that people who still watched the show and were invested in the characters that are on now were probably pretty annoyed. I’m sorry that they didn’t give their newer characters that kind of send off, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it the way it was.

  • grumpyoldman,

    That’s actually a really great point even though I myself felt the exact opposite. Having very little familiarity with the new crop of Doctors, I enjoyed the scenes with Carter, Corday and Benton far more than the scenes with Gates, Morris and Sam

  • rolise

    As an original series watcher and having recently been watching the show for the last couple of years again, I was actually satisfied as to where they left the new cast. Archie had become a good doctor and found love (see second to last episode) despite eating too much junk food. Neela moved on. Sam and Gates held hands with hints of a possible reconciliation. Benton was seeking counseling (go back an episode or two). The whole point of the show is that life goes on.

  • I’m with TheTVAddict. As someone who watched approx. the first 5 to 7 seasons and only a handful of episodes since then (most of which prominently featured the old characters), I like the moments with the original doctors better too.

    I liked how they used Carter, Mark Greene’s daughter, and the mixed opening credits as the bridges between the old and the new. Also, I liked how the final trauma required just about the whole cast to be lined up outside. Although it was good seeing Alexis Bledel on TV again, I’m not sure I understand the logic of casting a significant TV actress in a significant guest starring role on the very last episode.

    For a series finale, it was very odd. It was two hours long, but with the exception of Carter’s scenes with old cast members, it didn’t feel too different from any other episode. Most newer TV shows on now include some sort of continuing story arc. So, finales have to provide closure, revelations, teary goodbyes, huge battle scenes, etc. ER is so much about one day being like the next, that no matter when the show would have ended, it would always be about “life goes on.” That makes it grounded, mature, believable, but unfortunately, unavoidably anit-climactic.

  • caligirl

    it sucked!

  • Nancy

    You totally missed the point. The Ernest Borgnine story line was a metaphor–his wife’s demise was the demise of the show.

  • Kiersten

    Wow, I am amazed the reason I was looking at this site is to see when the final show airs? I watched this, but did not think it was two hours (I probably missed the first), and did not even realize that itwas the series finale. I have been watching ER on and off for years, liked the show very much, but really think they blew this as a wind up. Oh well, I suppose this is one of the reasons I gave up cable two years ago…. there just isn’t much worth watching out there.