Alex Currie

After clicking through to Flickr’s curated 20Under20 showcase, I quickly fell in love with the work of Alex Currie. His mystical-like photographs nearly had me drooling over such creative talent and achievement.

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Perhaps one day I’ll learn to be just as good. You can view more here.

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Previously on ER: Part 6

Today marks the 20th anniversary of ER’s premiere. No one could recap it better than the talent in front of and behind the cameras of NBC and Warner Bros. Television Group.

Also, five years ago, with the help (and wonderful surprise!) of my friends, I said goodbye to a show that had been on longer than half my life. As my friends came into the TV Room in our college dorm dressed in various medical attire, I couldn’t help but feel and overwhelming sense of gratitude. I’m pretty sure over the years I’ve annoyed a good number of you with my ER fandom, but knowing what an emotional night April 2, 2009 was going to be, I’m forever grateful for those that showed up and watched beside me as “ER” took it’s final bow against the Chicago skyline.

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Previously on ER: Part 5

Happy Thursday everyone and you now that that means…Throwback!

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While it seems forever ago, in the winter of 2009, January to be exact, I called up my BFF and told her I was taking her on a trip to Burbank, California in an attempt to experience “ER” first hand before it shuttered forever. After all, April 2009 marked the end of an era but I needed to travel to my personal mecca before I could properly say goodbye.

So with our bags packed, Katie and I descended upon Los Angeles with only hope in our hearts. There were some minor hiccups, and close calls, but in the end, Katie and I found ourselves on the ER set watching the likes of Archie Morris (Scott Grimes) shoot a scene outside County General with fake, potato shavings snow falling around us.

I bested him with my ER knowledge and wit, talked with Stephanie (aka the nurse with no lines) and we soon found ourselves walking the hallowed halls of County General. It was in a word: surreal.

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Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of ER’s premiere and I’m so happy to have been apart of such a groundbreaking and culturally significant show despite what pop culture may think today.

Oh yeh…we also visited the Warner Bros. prop department where they had staged the likes of Central Perk in a storage room. Our tour guide encouraged us “to play,” and so we took full advantage of the opportunity. We weren’t allowed to “play” on the ER set because they were already set for future scenes scheduled for later that day.

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Previously on ER: Part 4

er

No Love for “ER” as 20th Anniversary Approaches

When I moved to New York City two years ago, one of my first trips to 30 Rock included swinging by the gift shop in hopes of procuring an ER-related item. When I asked one of the salespeople to point me in the direction of ER merchandise, I was met with a confused stare and shown scrubs with the likes of HOUSE, MD screenprinted onto the pockets. I questioned why there was no ER merch to buy and they shrugged their apathetic shoulders and said, “Wasn’t that show, like, in the ‘90s?” although they still sold FRIENDS coffee mugs, FRASIER key chains and CHEERS beer glasses.

As ER’s 20th anniversary approaches and the announcement of Warner Bros. Television Group sponsoring a month-long popup Central Perk in Lower Manhattan*, I can’t help but wonder: Why is there such a lack of love for an iconic television institution?

ER, which brought forth such talent as George Clooney and Julianna Marguiles, ranks second of all-time Emmy nominated shows (SNL ranks first), and iconic movie makers Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) and Spielberg brought ER to the mass audiences in the first place.

While the likes of Doogie Howser and St. Elmo’s Fire were already in play and well known when ER premiered, this new show that NBC struggled to get made was an unknown game changer in primetime television history.

“The original ER script was what is commonly known as a trunk job. By the time it came into our hands at NBC – in 1993 – it was already a good twenty years old,” Warren Littlefield wrote in his career-focused memoir Top of the Rock, which details the glory days of NBC.

Tony Krantz, then a packaging agent for Creative Arts Agency, got wind that ER was “treading water” on the feature side of Warner Bros. after the tremendous success of Jurassic Park. After all, it was the Spielberg/Crichton team who hit the homerun with Michael Crichton’s sci-fi novel and it was Crichton’s ER script that was in trouble. Krantz opted to package ER – a fictional account of Crichton’s years as a medical student – as a television series. The only problem was, who would buy it? CBS had Chicago Hope already in the works and poised as their slam dunk of the new 1994 – 1995 season and Fox was barely a network. ABC showed initial excited interest but as Krantz wrote, “[ABC] didn’t want to step up in a meaningful way.” That left NBC, and they weren’t biting.

“We didn’t see how we could go wrong with a two-hour movie,” said David Nevins, then-VP of primetime series for NBC. “Nobody bit on their ask for thirteen episodes, and Warren stayed after them. Maybe two months went by, and Warren kept calling.”

“The ask had gone down to six episodes,” Warren added to Nevins’ testimony in Top of the Rock. “Crichton decided to rewrite the script on two conditions: no network notes and Crichton would take on pass to update the medicine,” said Nevins.

In short, it was a mess, but a beautiful one at that. Despite some network suits’ hesitation, ER moved forward. Appropriately, Anthony Edwards as Dr. Greene was cast first and then George Clooney with a trail of failed pilots behind him. Juliana Marguiles was 26 when she auditioned for her now-iconic role as Nurse Hathaway. Sherry Stringfield, who would play Dr. Lewis, left NYPD Blue for ER. Noah Wyle, who had read the feature script, hopped on board to play med student John Carter, and Eriq La Salle joined the cast as Benton.

As WB moves forward with its Central Perk popup, why not sponsor a PSA-health driven initiative in honor of ER’s anniversary as well? The television entertainment group could team up with The Girl Scouts and educate the general population on the importance of First Aid Kits or team up with the innovative med tech company Theranos and provide free blood screenings for cholesterol, iron and STDs.

ER should have been mentioned at this year’s Emmys in honor of it’s landmark anniversary, alongside The Sopranos or LOST at past Emmy’s which each received an enthusiastic homage. ER faltered in its latter seasons, but the magic that those first 10 years that it brought to primetime television has somehow, and unfairly, been forgotten. A part of me even likes to think that NBC’s failings to secure a show in its 10 p.m. Thursday night slot since ER’s ending is a curse from fans — much akin to Voldemort jinxing The Defense Against the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts.

And with NBC’s sad attempts of bringing back the glory and rush of the medical drama with Night Shift, I can’t help but think that the peacock network, too, is feeling nostalgic for its “must see” era.

Twenty years ago this month, ER premiered. Rachel moved in with Monica. Warren Littlefield brought forth and witnessed the climax of must see tv Thursday and Dr. Greene put on his glasses and stepped out into the peppered and hallowed County General ER.

— Mia

*Facts: not only did ER and FRIENDS premiere a week from one another, they were also filmed on Warner Bros. Burbank lot and even did a pseudo-crossover event in season one with the likes of George Clooney and Noah Wyle posing as Manhattan ER docs when Rachel and Monica rushed into their local ER. I will add that both shows boasted a “Rachel Greene” on its casting rosters. Coincidence? Probably.

Previously on ER: Part 3

Happy day three of ER’s 20th anniversary premiere week! Today I a present a carefully selected Top 20* list of ER’s 331 episodes.

SEASON 1

Blizzard
Blizzard

Day One: The one where it all begins ;D

Blizzard: This is my favorite episode of all time. The ER staff goofs around because of a low patient load and is caught off guard when a multi-victim car pile up arrives. Elsewhere, Hathaway tries to hide her engagement ring while Ross pretends not to notice.

Love’s Labor Lost: Pretty much the worst day a doctor can have. Prepare to hold your breath and cry in this Emmy award winning episode. The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford guest stars.

Motherhood: Quentin Tarantino directed this one. Enough said.

SEASON 2

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“Hell and High Water”

Hell and High Water: Dr. Ross attempts to save the day outside the ER when a kid gets trapped in a flooded culvert. Epic cinematography on this one.

Baby Shower: Mothers in Labor flood the ER when OB is shut down due to sprinkler system errors. It’s kind of funny.

SEASON 3

"Long Way Around"
“Long Way Around”

Long Way Around: Starring the likes of Ewan McGregor, Carol Hathaway finds herself in a real time convenience store hostage situation and tries to save the injured and talk her way out of captivity. It doesn’t end well for Ewan 😦

SEASON 4

the cast celebrating after "Ambush"
the cast celebrating after “Ambush”

Ambush: ER’s ambitious, Emmy nominated live episode, which aired once on the east coast and then reset to play out on the west coast hours later. Lisa Edelstein makes an appearance.

Fathers and Sons: Doug and Mark hit the road to bury Ross’ father. Also, bromance.

SEASON 5

"The Storm"
“The Storm”

Day for Knight: Welcome to the ER through the eyes of a idealistic medstudent. Great storytelling in this one!

The Storm Part 1: George Clooney sets up his exit as his character, Dr. Ross, continues to blur the lines of medical ethics and patient care…the plot thickens!

The Storm Part 2: Shit goes down, which makes you question the purpose of inner city healthcare systems and Clooney makes his dramatic exit as Dr. Ross. Hathaway almost makes you cry. “I don’t want to wake up alone Doug.” NNNOOO!

Double Blind: Resident Maggie Doyle takes an administrative complaint to the chief of staff but hospital politics get in the way. Always thought this was what work life would be like, so much drama!

SEASON 6

great expectations
“Great Expectations”

Great Expectations: Hathaway has her twins and “Lizzie” argues the finer points of British history with Greene’s daughter Rachel in this Thanksgiving episode. “It’s a hyphenate actually!” – Corday.

Be Still My Heart: It’s valentine’s day in the ER but an unstable patient waiting for a psych bed upends Carter and Lucy’s plans…

All in the Family: The second part of “Be Still My Heart,” the ER and OR staff fight the clocks and biology to save two of their own. Poor Lucy 😦

SEASON 7

a walk in the woods
“A Walk in the Woods”

A Walk in the Woods: This one probably appeals more to my Catholic sensibilities but James Cromwell stars as, “The Bishop,” and we get insight into Luka’s back story in Croatia.

Rampage: The last seconds of this season finale will leave your jaw on the floor. Dr. Greene did what?!

SEASON 8

"On the Beach"
“On the Beach”

Secrets and Lies: The ER writers got bored and decided to do a Breakfast Club homage episode? Walt Whitman is discussed. Abby defends her nursing career. Fencing happens. Luka recites Shakespeare in Croation and we find out when everyone lost their viriginity. It’s an amusing episode.

The Letter: Dr. Carter reads a faxed letter from Dr. Corday informing the staff that Dr. Greene has died in Hawaii. “Dear ER Gang…” as Frank notes, Carter is no longer allowed to read out loud.

On the Beach: Prepare to cry your eyes out as we witness Dr. Greene’s final moments on this precious earth. Truly touching storytelling and it was nominated for an Emmy. Somewhere Over the Rainbow gets me every time now.

SEASON 9

"Hindsight"
“Hindsight”

A Hopeless Wound: Don Cheadle guest stars as a Parkinson’s diagnosed medical student. Corday is not amused. It’s also Halloween.

Hindsight: The ER writers got bored and decided to do a Memento homage episode? The episode plays in reverse chronological order and Luka’s not being a good person. Leslie Bibb is present.

SEASON 10

"NICU"
“NICU”

NICU: Abby and Neela spend an episode outside the ER and in their NICU rotations. Tiny babies can be patients too!

The Student: Basically Carter tries to empower his medstudent Neela and then doesn’t supervise properly (um, remember Lucy?) and bad things happen. Also Neela finally seems human. Also, Dr. Romano directed this episode.

SEASON 11

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“The Show Must Go On”

The Show Must Go On:  One of their many “event” episodes, a balcony collapses at a party, the ER is swamped, and all the attendings are out celebrating Dr. Carter’s last day. Residents and med students rise to the occasion. Oh hey there Shane West.

Season 12

"21 Guns"
“21 Guns”

Human Shield: As an episode, it’s probably not one of the strongest, but it does begin the road back to Luka/Abby that fans missed and John Leguizamo tries to sneak in a chimp as a patient.

21 Guns: Apart from “Rampage,” this was the most shocking finale and I was pissed as hell to have to wait two whole months to find out what happened next. RIP Gallant. People got shot.

That’s right, no episode love for season 13, 14 and 15 but even the greats like ER struggle in the end when it’s gone on for this long. I did enjoy the last line of the series finale though, “Are you coming Dr. Greene?” – Carter.

*Were you counting? I couldn’t narrow it down to 20 after all ;D

Previously on ER: Part 2

Once upon a time, circa the early 90s, in land known as Los Angeles, a certain agent for CAA stumbled across an old and dusty script written by the now popular Michael Crichton. After all, Jurassic Park just became a hit in the movie theaters and Spielberg was riding a wave of blockbusters. This script, then called EW, looked promising to packaging agent Tony Krantz.

The first thing Tony did was reach out to Crichton’s agent. “He told me the script was treading water in development with Amblin at Warner Bros. on the feature side. It was a project that Michael and Steven Spielberg were going to turn their attention to next after their monumental success together on Jurassic Park,” wrote Krantz in his essay “The Birth of ‘ER'” for the Hollywood Journal.

However, Warner Bros. wasn’t biting and so Tony tried to sell it as a series instead. Michael Crichton wasn’t entirely convinced and was only slightly open to a 13-episode deal. Through great powers of persuasion, Tony was able to lock down that deal but they still needed a showrunner that everyone could trust. Enter: John Wells, who Crichton at first wasn’t exactly thrilled about.

“There was one gigantic problem however — I didn’t have deals negotiated with anybody. And there was a bigger problem: Michael Crichton was insisting on parity with Steven Spielberg deal-wise, with that caveat that he would get paid for doing no work — the studio contract had to spell it out precisely or forget it,” wrote Krantz.

Krantz opted to package “ER” – a fictional account of Crichton’s years as a medical student – as a television series. The only problem was, who would buy it? CBS had “Chicago Hope” already in the works and poised as their slam dunk of the new 1994 – 1995 season and Fox was barely a network. ABC showed initial excited interest but as Krantz wrote, ” [ABC] didn’t want to step up in a meaningful way.” That left NBC and they weren’t enthused about the project.

“We didn’t see how we could go wrong with a two-hour movie,” said David Nevins, then VP of primetime series for NBC. “Nobody bit on their ask for thirteen episodes, and Warren [ creative development ] stayed after them. Maybe two months went by, and Warren kept calling.”

“The ask had gone down to six episodes.” Warren  Littlefield added to Nevins’ testimony in Littlefield’s memoir Top of the Rock. “Crichton decided to rewrite the script on two conditions. No network notes and Chrichton would take on pass to update the medicine,” said Nevins.

In short, it was a mess, but a beautiful one at that. Despite network suits’ hesitations, ER moved forward. Appropriately, Anthony Edwards as Dr. Geene was cast first and then George Clooney with a trail of failed pilots behind him. Juliana Marguiles was 26 when she auditioned for her now iconic role as Nurse Hathaway, Sherry Stringfield who would play Dr. Lewis left NYPD Blue for ER, Noah Wyle who had read the feature EW script hopped on board to play med student John Carter, which left the role of Dr. Benton unfilled.

“So I get to the end of the script and I’m like, ‘Ah, that’s a really good script.’,” said Eriq La Salle who would play Dr. Benton. “So I called my agent and I said, ‘I’m sorry, which role is the black role?’ And he said, ‘The Benton role.’ And I was like. ‘Get outta here!’ I thought Michael Crichton and John Wells did something interesting. I don’t think Benton was ever described as an African-American, and I tried not to think the role was too good for an African-American to play.”

With all the principle actors cast and production underway, Warren Littlefield still needed to convince the NBC execs and primetime audiences that ER was worth the effort. Vulture writer Josef Adalian asked Littlefield why they chose to run the ER premiere on a Monday night against a “Monday Night Football” game – Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys.

“I had seen the ER pilot probably 26 times. And that night, I’m going back and forth between ER and the NFL. And I’m like, ‘We’re screwed. We’re dead. This is – this is Dallas, America’s team. It’a nail biting game,'” said Littlefield. That night, ER scored a 17.6 Neilsen rating while the NFL did 19 and Chicago Hope did 16.

The next week ER moved to Thursday night after the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. premiere and against Chicago Hope. All held their breath. No one thought ER could beat CBS’ Chicago Hope. Week after week, the execs and creatives read the numbers, and week after week, Chicago Hope was on the steady decline as ER shot up in popularity.

Josef Beckman, scheduling at NBC, told Adalian,”…all the years I’d been in the business, if there was ever a slam dunk … God could have done a talk show [opposite ER]. It didn’t matter. I remember showing Chicago Hope and ER to my wife. She didn’t know which network they were on. Afterwards, I said, ‘Well, which one would you watch?’ And she didn’t even say. She looked at me and she said, ‘Are you even kidding me?’ One show was these young, idealistic doctors in a struggling inner-city hospital, with multiple stories going on in that pilot. Then the other was this pristine, squeaky-clean hospital with these high-paid doctors separating conjoined twins. Come on. What are people gonna watch?”

Littlefield adds to Adalain, “Friends was a destination. Regardless of what was happening at 8:30, Seinfeld was a destination. The same for ER. And so, through the height of the Must-See years, 75 million Americans were watching at least some of Thursday night on NBC. If you didn’t, you absolutely felt left out. You just didn’t want to show up at work the next day if you couldn’t talk about what was on NBC the night before. It was the place to be in the television universe. And it just was the last time that one network had the best of the best, and everybody wanted to be there.”

backissues

So now, 20 years later and watching this cultural resurgence of all things 90s and nostalgia, I can’t help but wonder why a lack of interest for a show that paved the way for the likes of Grey’s Anatomy, House, and Scrubs. Why there was no mention at the 2009 Emmy’s of ER’s marathon like run and finish while the likes of The Sopranos or Lost each received an enthusiastic homage.

Yes ER faltered in its latter seasons, but the magic those first 10 years that it brought to primetime television has somehow, and unfairly, been forgotten. A part of me even likes to think that NBC’s failings to secure a show in it’s 10PM Thursday night slot since ER’s end is a fan’s curse much akin to Voldemort jinxing The Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts. And with NBC’s sad attempts of bringing back the glory and rush of the medical drama with Night Shift, I can’t help but think that the peacock network too is feeling nostalgic for its “must see” era.