15 Years (1994-2009)
It introduced actors like George Cloney, Juliana Margulies, Anthony Edwards and so many others.
It won 23 Primetime Emmy Awards, including the 1996 Outstanding Drama Series award, and received 124 Emmy nominations, which makes it the most nominated drama program in history. ER won 116 awards in total, including the Peabody Award, while the cast earned four Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Drama Series. (paragraph and statistics pulled from the wikipedia article on ER)
It was ensemble drama at its highest and multi-textured best with complex plotting, believable human characters with flaws and idiocies on full display as well as heroism and selflessness. Most episodes could bring tears and laughter and angst in rapid fire sequences to the conscience of an audience as well as a generous, if sobered hope.
There were people to root for, root against, despise and love. There were situations that challenged the ethics of the viewing public as well as every prejudice and perspective you ever had.
Yes, the doctors were too pretty. Yes, the nurses too. And yes, some of the plotting was overly contrived. It was TV. But at its best, it strove for honesty.
So why am I sitting here writing about a show that ended 7 years ago? Because I am re-reading a book (Cultivating a Life for God, by Neil Cole) that I have recommended for years and the author quotes a powerful episode from ER. It is a story about the potential of the local church. Here’s the quote:
Dr. Mark Greene (played by Anthony Edwards) is in a particularly cynical mood and challenges nurse Carol Hathaway (played by Juliana Margulies) to see if there are as many sane patients as kooks who come through the emergency room. Dr. Greene, believing that the number of kooks far out-distances the number of sane patients, wins the contest. I will do my best to portray this episode accurately from my memory.
In the midst of the episode, black Physician Assistant Jeanie Boulet (played by Gloria Reuben) uncovers an unconscious patient’s torso to reveal a Ku Klux Klan tattoo over his heart. She asks Dr. Greene to find someone else to care for this patient but he declines. Later, the patient regains consiousness and is actually a very gentle and polite man. When Boulet enters his room, cold and indifferent, to give him sutures, she ask him to lower his gown and at first he is reticent and asks for a different nurse. She insists and he lowers his gown revealing the tattoo. He then asks her a most profound question. He asks, “Do you believe in the power of God to change a life?” She retorts, “What does that tattoo have to do with God?” He said, “Well, I was hoping you wouldn’t have to see that tattoo, that’s why I requested another nurse. It’s not something I’m proud of. But the Lord Jesus Christ has changed my life. … once there was nothing but hatred and fear in me [but] God has changed me and I have love and faith. … do you believe in the power of God to change a life?”
In a fashion uncharacteristic of Hollywood, ER set the testimony of a life changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only sane one in the midst of wackos and crazy people (including some of the doctors themselves).
A little later in the episode, Boulet is still contemplating the question she has been asked. (p. 12)
What do you think?
Can God change lives?
Can He remove hatred and replace it with love?
Can He remove fear and replace it with confidence?
Can He make truth-tellers out of liars?
Can He make dead-beat fathers responsible and reliable men and husbands?
Can the gospel of Jesus Christ take unforgiving, bitter, and angry men and women and turn them into sweet and gentle forgivers with generous hearts toward all?
Can God bring grace into a man’s life so that his life takes a completely different turn into a new direction that stuns everyone who ever knew him before?
Christian, what are you waiting for?
- Go tell the world.
- Go live a transformed life by the power of His Spirit.
- Start with number 2.