When has ER NOT been like a soap opera?

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I keep reading threads where people are complaining that ER is becoming too much like a soap opera. When has ER not been LIKE a soap opera? Don't get me wrong, I think ER is one of the best dramas to come along in the last 10 years. The writing and acting are consistently good and the traumas are so intense they can be hard to watch. BUT...From the very start, the characters have gone through everything soap characters go through on a regular basis.

If you care to keep reading, lets take one ER character and examine what has happened in her life on the show. For example, Carol Hathaway.

Carol begins her stint on ER by attempting suicide. It seems she is dating one man, sleeps with another man, has poor self esteem over her apparent lack of character and decides to down a bunch of pills and end it all.

Having recovered, she returns to work and becomes engaged to the man she was dating prior to the attempt. He leaves her standing at the alter.

A year later, she starts dating a man (Shep) who promptly begins to show signs of being even more unstable than Doug. His best friend dies, he loses control at every opportunity, and Carol leaves him.

Carol later begins to date the man who caused her so much grief at the beginning of the series. Just when you think they are getting close to full committment, he decides to start over away from Chicago and leaves her.

Carol finds out she is expecting twins. She goes through enormous anguish trying to decide between a new guy who might do as a daddy, and the guy she really wants who is now living in a dream house on the west coast. She almost dies having the babies, goes through more angst, and ends up living happily ever after with the man of her dreams, her soulmate.

The only difference between the above and a soap opera is that in a soap opera the events I listed would have happened in six months instead of six years. Give the writers a break. They are in a no win situation with the fans. If they pull away from the characters and concentrate on trauma and action, they are accused of being too one sided and not giving the proper air time to character development. If they concentrate on moving the characters forward and showing more of their personal lives, then cries of "soap opera" fill the air.

I trust the writers, directors and actors to continue to deliver the type of entertainment I have come to expect from them. You can call it a soap if you must, but I call it drama.

-- N Wilson (nwilson@wko.com), August 24, 2000


THANK you! I couldn't agree more.

-- Tracy (bankybooda@aol.com), August 24, 2000.

I agree with the both of you. But it's not as soap operish as the soaps actually are. Example: A few weeks ago on DOOL Eric was speeding in a car and got hit by a train. Then he gets out of the car and walks away as if nothing happened. I was like "oh please give me a break." Nothing like that would happen on "ER". So you know "ER" isn't that soap operish.

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 24, 2000.

Yes folks, it is a DRAMA. Things have to be a little dramatic to get people to watch. The writers want to make us care about these characters and to do that, they have to torture them a bit. Sounds a little like a soap. The only difference here is that it's not so over the top. No one's been reincarnated or gone to alternate realities. (That's what fanfic is for right? ;-) My husband actually refers to ER as "your soap". I say, at least it's not Dallas.

-- S. Trelles (trelles@ix.netcom.com), August 25, 2000.

"I say, at least it's not Dallas. "

Hey, I loved Dallas! But the day Lucy steps out of Carter's shower and tells him it was a dream, I'll stop watching ER!

-- liz (elizabeth.williams@aon.co.uk), August 25, 2000.

Hey, I tell my mom it's like a soap but better. Especially since TNT is (or rather, was) showing the episodes every day in order. Someday I'll convert her. Heh heh.

-- Tracy (bankybooda@aol.com), August 25, 2000.

Hey - I liked Dallas too-I still watch the reruns on TNN. I watch reruns of LA Law on A&E also! At least for now, ER hasn't gotten so unbelievably sappy and syrupy in their "soap-opera" story lines that no self-respecting MAN would even sneak around and watch the show. As long as they continue to portray their characters in situations that could actually happen in real-life then I think they'll be able to continue to stay on top. I'd hate to see them resort to something far-fetched like having Carter, still distraught by his ordeal, jump off the roof only to be scooped up by angels mid-air and wisked to safety and finally realizing that he was spared for a "greater purpose"... (Hey, what a story! Maybe I'd better get in touch with those folks over at DOOL!)

-- Linda (l.brown@mindspring.com), August 25, 2000.

I used to watch DOOL until Jensen Ackles(sp?) left. Not only that but DOOL is turning into a teeny-bopper show. Sorry if I offended anyone. It's bad wnough NBC only has two soaps on it but do they have to both be teeny-boper shows. That's what I like about "ER". It's not some teeny-bopper show. My cousins' wife watched "ER" for the first time when she she saw AITF. She hasn't seen it since. I don't know why but she is going to be a med student next month. Maybe that has something to do with it.

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 25, 2000.

Dallas had some good qualities, I'm not denying it. But that shower scene was just too much. ANd if they did that on ER, I think i'd electrocute myself crying into the set. Oh and Linda, they did the angel scoop story on Babylon 5 a few years ago. (That was my husband's soap, but God forbid I'd ever get him to admit it.)

-- S. Trelles (trelles@ix.netcom.com), August 25, 2000.

HEY I LIKE DALLAS! But Liz, I gotta say, that shower comment, I cracked up! That was really funny. K, so jsut wanted to defend Dallas and thank Liz for that one-liner. But more on topic, sure maybe it's a little soap-operay, but like they said, when has it not been? And who would really want to watch a show about more real-life hosptial situations on NBC when we can do that on TLC?

-- Lauren (radhamtte@hotmail.com), August 25, 2000.

Speaking of soap operas today on General Hospital they used "Take me home" which was used in Such Sweet Sorrow. Unfortunatly now a great song has been ruined for me (at least for a while until I can get the GH pictures out of my mind). I think that ER does use some soap opera elements (generally those that happen to occur in real life), but there is a big difference between coping with a drug addiction after a brutal attack (which I believe is very possible) and having your spouse rise from the dead just in time to prevent your wedding to the next love of your life (which I think is impossible).

-- Emma (webbef@hotmail.com), August 25, 2000.

We have a winner! LOL! Emma- What happened on GH is even more ridiculous than what happened on DOOL. Thank god that never happens on "ER". I mean it would be nice if the characters that died on ER could come back but we all know that's impossible. THerefore "ER" is not that soap operish as the soaps actually are as seen recently on GH and DOOL.

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 25, 2000.

Emma, were you talking about Frisco and Felicia? Wow, has it been that long since I've seen GH?

And hey, I'm not totally bashing soaps. If it weren't for GH, I wouldn't have learned to program a VCR. (The old style, non-onscreen programming. Before Luke and Laura were married, those were the good old days. God I sound like a fogey.)

-- S. Trelles (trelles@ix.netcom.com), August 26, 2000.

I have to say that I'm surprised that so many of you see ER as a soap. I never have. First, I don't watch soaps (with the exception of Knots Landing when it was on, but it was different than the others of its time), because they tend to be unrealistic and hokey. I don't see ER in that vein at all. Second, they tend to be predominately about sex and power. Though those are covered in ER, so are many other things; they aren't disproportionately overwhelming. Perhaps its considered a soap by some because each epi isn't self-contained, like other dramas including St. Elsewhere. Since the storylines go on for weeks or even months, I prefer to call it a continuing drama, but I wouldn't insult it (okay, you might like soaps but to me it's an insult) by calling it a soap.

-- Diana (dilynne@juno.com), August 26, 2000.

Adding one more thing to my post above. The acting in soaps is usually subquality, while the acting in ER has been consistent and mostly superb (including several awards). I don't remember Larry Hagman ever receiving a nomination for great acting or the cast of Dynasty receiving an award for ensemble cast. Just wanted to add that too.

-- Diana (dilynne@juno.com), August 26, 2000.

Wow I have not been here in ages. I have neglected this for so long. I feel bad but now I am back here is my say. It sort of is soap opera-ish except that it doesn't have that cheesy music in the background. It also has better actors and better quality writing. I think it has alot of drama to keep us interested. It is realistic drama (well sort of) but at least it isn't like Days Of our lives where someone is sleeping with another guy and is pregnant to someone else. It isn't ridiculous drama.

-- Nicole (pizza_cats@hotmail.com), August 26, 2000.

Nicole, you brought up a great point! I think DOOL sunk to an all new low recently when they had viewers vote for who the father of Hope's baby would be. Would it be John or Stefano? Gee, let me guess who viewers would pick. Could it be John? Yep. It was announced this past Monday I think. I mean honestly. What the point of that was is totally beyond me.It's bad enough it's turned into a teeny-bopper show. Then they do that. I hope that never happens on ER. Of course we all know it won't. Right?

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 26, 2000.

I have to correct Diana on one small point. "Dallas" WAS an Emmy contender when it was at its peak, just like "ER" was when it was at its peak. Barbara Bel Geddes was nominated for outstanding lead actress in a drama three times in a row and won once. I would have thought Miss Ellie was a supporting role and Pam and Sue Ellen were the lead females, but that's where they put her. Linda Gray was also nominated and competed with BBG for that award one year. It got a lot of Golden Globes awards/nominations through the years too, for BBG, Gray, Victoria Principal, and Larry Hagman. Of course, when it started to go downhill and reuse the same plotlines, and then they made it all over the top and stupid to try to prop the ratings up, and the original cast members started bailing out, it got less and less attention at awards time. Sounds familiar.

-- Chris (peppermill@anet.com), August 27, 2000.

I appreciate the correction Chris! Still, I'd say that it was the exception and that most of the real night time soaps are as I described above. Barbara Bel Geddes was a good actress and her presence was truly missed on Dallas after she left. She came back later, right?

-- Diana (dilynne@juno.com), August 27, 2000.

Yes, she did. ANd they fired Donna Reed to get her back.

-- S. Trelles (trelles@ix.netcom.com), August 27, 2000.

I think she left for a season and came back for a few years, then left for good a couple seasons from the end, when the show was really stinking up the place. Didn't Donna Reed play the role for the one year BBG was gone, and it didn't work out too well?

Today, I think a nighttime soap like "Dallas" would have a harder time getting Emmy nominations, even for a great actor like Barbara Bel Geddes who deserved them. Back in 1978-82, when it got all its Emmy nods, there weren't as many quality dramas to hog the nominations. Maybe there were and I'm forgetting some of them, but all I remember from the dramas of that era is junk food TV like "Dukes of Hazzard" and "Charlie's Angels." Were there any great dramas on back then besides "Hill Street Blues"? Now we even have some quality dramas on cable nets like HBO and Showtime. I think TV has improved. A little bit, anyway.

-- Chris (peppermill@anet.com), August 27, 2000.

For those that wondering Don Henley's song was played for Bobbie and Roy (on GH). I guess the one thing that ER and every other television show has in common is that they have peaks and valleys. I'm hoping that most of season five was valley, and the only way is up. Even though ER still has solid ratings, I noticed that over the summer months they haven't cracked the top 20 in the Neilsen's, while other shows that are in reruns (most notably the Practice) are regulary in the top 20. It makes me wonder if they will hold onto their #1 drama position.

-- Emma (webbef@hotmail.com), August 28, 2000.

Hill Street Blues was definitely the "cream of the crop" in those days. St. Elsewhere was also great drama from that time frame (I think it was on about that time!). But the genre of the day was definitely the nighttime soap. Stars from Knots Landing also got a few nods for emmys -- Michele Lee and the one who played Val (I cannot think of her name for anything!) ring a bell.

The current dramas all have a soapish flavor, but they are not so over the top. I mean, Carol's twins did not get kidnapped and Lucy did not return from the dead. As someone mentioned above, they have to have some amount of angst to them or we would all be watching the real ER show on TLC. I think ER does a good job of portraying characters and incidents that could and do happen in real life. The quality of acting on ER is superb (Noah Wyle was especially great this year). I read recently somewhere about how quality on TV has gotten so good that it is not that big of a deal for film stars to do TV and it is not so hard for TV stars to break into film (look at our fave - GC). I agree with that and I think ER is one of the best. It has had its ups and downs in quality, but I really think it is on upward slope right now. Now if Lucy comes back from the dead this year or we found out Deb was impregnated by aliens then I will stop watching...but until then I'll be tuned in on Thursday nights! :)

-- amanda (amanda.rehm@home.com), August 28, 2000.

Amanda, did you get that Deb idea from the season finale of the X- files? LOL! Attention to all you Dallas fans out there: This weekend on "Entertainment Tonight" the weekend edition they will be doing behind the scences of Dallas. They'll reveal secrets of the show and the stars of the show. Check your TV Guide for showtimes this weekend. I never watched Dallas but someone told me that they did bring someone back from the dead. Is that true?

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 28, 2000.

Well, Cammie, if I remember correctly (I was only about 10 when Dallas aired) Bobby died and the whole season dealt with the aftermath of his death. Then on the season finale it showed Bobby in the shower and Pam (Victoria Principal) waking up and it had all been a dream! The whole season was a dream! I think that was when they lost a ton of fans!

-- amanda (amanda.rehm@home.com), August 28, 2000.

Well they certainly lost me. I was never a huge fan, but after that storyline debacle I avoided it like typhoid.

I have to say my first real nighttime drama was Hill Street Blues. I've been a Thursday night junkie ever since.

-- S. Trelles (trelles@ix.netcom.com), August 28, 2000.

In reference to Emma's post above about summer ratings, I've watched ER since day one (ha!) and have never missed a first run epi! But I've seldom watched reruns in the summer (or even during the regular season) because they're often shown out of order (and thus, in my opinion, context). In February I started watching TNT's reruns and watched them all again (except Christmas epis of course), but I've watched few of the summer reruns (Be Still My Heart and All in the Family being the exceptions). I guess I'm saying there are loyal fans out her like me who enjoy watching the epis but do other things during the summer. I, for one, am looking forward to the new epis in October, however! With it being the end of August, that's getting really close now! :)

-- Diana (dilynne@juno.com), August 29, 2000.

Hey Dallas Fans - TNN runs the "best-of" episodes on Tuesdays all day. Who said they were only 10 when Dallas was on??? God - now I feel like a dinosaur! Didn't anybody here watch LA Law? (Another great NBC Thursday Night Drama) I tell you what - when Rosalind Shays stepped in to that "empty" elevator - I jumped up and shouted hooray!

-- Linda (l.brown@mindspring.com), August 29, 2000.

I was younger than that when Dallas was on. I have heard of LA Law but never watched it. How long ago did this air?

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 29, 2000.

I was an LA Law fan too! I did see Rosalind go down the elevator shaft and had a good laugh. And remember when Arnie and Roxanne fell through the ceiling and broke the bust of Rosalind? (Mackenzie: "You've broken Roz!") ROTFL! Sorry this was off-topic, but it's nice to chat with someone who remembers the good/bad/indifferent old days.

Cammie-LA Law was the 10:00 Thursday drama during the mid to late 80's (I believe). It sort of straddled my high school and college years. (Quick do the math!) I hope you don't mind my asking, but how old are you, and did anyone ever explain to you about Lucy's carrot?

-- S. Trelles (trelles@ix.netcom.com), August 30, 2000.

I liked when Arnie & Roz fell thru the ceiling too but I also got a good laugh when Ann was ovulating and she & Stuart both had to work late so they took care of business on the floor then Jonathan and Victor kept coming in to ask more questions while Ann was laying there with her legs up for the obligatory 30 minutes after.

I'm 35 - I must have missed something about Lucy's Carrot...

-- Linda (l.brown@mindspring.com), August 30, 2000.

Sorry to keep posting - LA Law is on A & E every weekday @ Noon and 6pm (EST). They are getting close to the end of the series so they will be starting over from the beginning in about another month or so.

-- Linda (l.brown@mindspring.com), August 30, 2000.

S. Trelles- No. Noone explained and it looks like I'm not the only one who doesn't get it. Linda didn't get it eitheir. I'm in my 20's. How old are you if you don't mind me asking?

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 30, 2000.

I'm thirtysomething.

You're old enough to know. I have your email address and I'll explain it to you privately. It's not something that should be put on the board. Here's a hint. Think gerbils.

-- S. Trelles (trelles@ix.netcom.com), August 30, 2000.

I'm 20, I've never watched LA Law, and I got the carrot thing. Just incase anyone cared. :-)

As for the carrot - think about it. The guy perfed his intestine with a carrot. If he didn't swallow it, there's only one other way in/out of the intestine.

-- JLS (ewwhatevr@aol.com), August 30, 2000.

I get it now. S. Trelles is right. That would definitly be innapropiate to to put on the board. I don't even want to know why someone would do that.

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 30, 2000.

Cammie, I thought you said you were in your 20's.

-- Cecelia (evilstoat@hotmail.com), August 30, 2000.

I am. I don't know why I said that. I've been acting weird today probably because I didn't get musch sleep last night. I'm very sorry I said that.

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 30, 2000.

I feel better tomorrow and when I look at what I typed I'll be really embarrased.

-- Cammie (rmaelhorn@home.com), August 30, 2000.

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