The end of an ERa

Matt Busekroos

NBC’s “E.R.” slowly faded to black at 10:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 2 after 15 years on television. The medical drama, which garnered 120 Emmy nominations with 22 wins, ended with special appearances from former cast members Noah Wyle, Laura Innes, Sherry Stringfield, Alex Kingston and Eriq La Salle.

Wyle has guest starred on the show five times in the final season as his character Dr. John Carter was in need of a kidney transplant. In a special episode that aired in March, Academy Award winner and former cast member George Clooney (Dr. Doug Ross) returned with on-screen love Julianna Margulies (Nurse Carol Hathaway). The two unknowingly saved their former co-worker’s life by attaining a fresh kidney in the Seattle hospital where they now work.

Meanwhile, Dr. Kerry Weaver (Innes) and Dr. Susan Lewis (Stringfield) returned in the series finale in support of Carter’s efforts in opening his new health care facility named after his deceased son Joshua. The emotional scenes surrounding the opening gave the audience closure over the characters they first grew to love 15 years ago.

In its final season, County General Hospital said goodbye to Dr. Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney), who stayed on the show for 10 years, and welcomed Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett as Dr. Cate Banfield, who added prestige and re-invigorated the long-running show that had gone limp.

While staying on the air past its prime, “E.R.” became a staple on Thursday nights and its stylized filming style with quick cuts and fast pans was revolutionary when the show premiered in 1994. Along with “Friends,” which debuted the same week, the two programs made NBC, “Must See TV.”

The series finale delivered the goods in bowing out gracefully with a classy episode centering on a normal day in the emergency room. Written by executive producer John Wells, the finale came full circle in bringing the drama, while sustaining the small, intimate moments that has grounded the show. “E.R.” has delivered fully-realized characters over the past 15 years, while making story arcs compelling enough to sustain high quality television.

The low-key finale also saw the return of Dr. Mark Greene’s (Anthony Edwards) daughter Rachel (Hallee Hirsh), who intended to follow her father’s footsteps as an emergency room physician. (Edwards left the show in 2001 after his character succumbed to a brain tumor.) Rachel’s presence somewhat mirrored Carter in the beginning of the show and the series honored tradition when Carter yelled after Rachel, but called her Dr. Greene as the camera slowly panned away from County General Hospital. Life goes on after an ordinary day in the E.R.