Article on ER from USA Today "Better Bedside Treatment for ER Regulars" : LUSENET : ER Discussions : One Thread

Better bedside treatment for 'ER' regulars By Dennis Hunt, USA TODAY

"There wasn't much (stability) last year" on ER, says Jack Orman, the primary executive producer of the NBC drama. "It was our biggest transition year ever."

ER seemed equipped with a revolving door, as substantial additions  such as Michael Michele and Maura Tierney  were overshadowed by significant character losses, Gloria Reuben, Kellie Martin and Julianna Margulies.

But for the seventh season, beginning Oct. 12, that revolving door has ground to a halt.

"Nobody is leaving, and we don't have to introduce any new characters," Orman says. "We can focus on developing the characters we already have. We won't have to write for entrances and exits. "

The biggest hole to fill is that left by Margulies' departure. "We're going to dedicate a lot of storytelling to the other female characters," Orman says.

The early part of the season, though, will concentrate on Carter (Noah Wyle) and the fallout of his drug rehab. And in another major story line, conflict will arise between Tierney's character and her estranged mother, played by Sally Field.

"As the series ages, we're going to count more on stories driven by the lead characters and less on patient stories," he says.

-- T Lem (, September 15, 2000


Hm. Although I like that idea, I get the feeling that people will be howling "soap opera!" at that prospect.

-- Tracy (, September 15, 2000.

Tracy, I have the same feeling. I hope they don't turn this into a "Days Of Our Lives" thing or else I may not watch it anymore.

-- Cammie (, September 15, 2000.

I totally agree with you guys. I remember that ER is based on the life of health care professionals and Michael Crichton had the idea for the show as a form of documentary. If the producers want to keep ER as a unique and qualitative show, then they should think about what they're gonna do!!!

There are tons of soap opera out there based on doctors and nurses' personal life!

-- Kelly (, September 15, 2000.

Well I can see where everyone is coming from, but wasn't everyone wanting more of the character's personal lives? Almost every thread we have involving the characters says they want more insight into personal lives (Kerry, Cleo, Abby, Malucchi, Romano, Luka, etc...I guess we can all assume we've seen plenty of Mark's!) so when I read this I thought everyone would be happy. They've done a pretty good job so far of not making this a soap operaish show, and if it has been, we've usually enjoyed it (i.e. Doug and Carol, the Carter/Lucy stabbing, etc.). Every drama has some sort of soap opera atmosphere, it's hard to stay away from it when you need to keep up interesting storylines. I am happy to hear that no one is leaving or coming; that they declared all THREE females that exited as substantial, and that the Carter "fallout" will be pretty important. I will be disappointed if they totally fade away the patient stories, but I also wouldn't mind if they integrated both of these aspects. JMHO.

-- Elaine (, September 15, 2000.

Like I've said before... since when does getting to know the characters better = soap opera? let's face it, ER is an aging show, and they have to do somewhat different things. Having personal relationships for the characters does not make it a soap opera. It's called "drama" folks...

-- Tracy (, September 15, 2000.

I thought about this a little more after my first post and I think a little change would be good. I mean we don't know anything about any of the new characters except for Luka. All we know about Dave is he went to school in Gernada(sp?). Cleo was a basketball player in high school and is from Indiana. Abby is divorcing her husband. Deb, well we really don't know anything about her except that she comes from a rich family. So it would be nice to get to know these new people even more. It may seem like a soap opera but what I have seen on DOOL in the past couple of months ER is nothing at all like a soap opera though. And who knows maybe this change will get them an Emmy nomination and win next year.

-- Cammie (, September 15, 2000.

I think that what Orman meant was that they want the show to be more like at its beginning again, when we saw a lot more of friendship and interaction between the main characters. I feel that this is a good thing, and I remember many people here complaining of the lack of friendship and support on the show during the last two seasons. Remember the cast doing the twist when Carter had wished a song for Susan on the radio? Or that episode where the nurses had their night out? I wanna see more scenes like that again- Just as a symbol that they're still friends and not just co-workers.

-- Anne (, September 15, 2000.

I think people screaming about the fact that the show has become a soap opera are missing the point. It has always been a soap opera -- it's just that for a long time, there was enough kinetic energy to make people think they were watching something else.

It's like L.A. Law: Yes, the characters were lawyers and sure, there were court scenes, but nobody actually thought the show was about law. ER isn't about medicine -- not really, anyway -- it's about the lives of its characters. Most TV shows ultimately are about the lives of their chracters; the question is how deep the examination goes.

Not to retread ground already covered by people like Phyl and Dave, ER's failing in recent years has been that they no longer trust in our ability to figure out what makes the characters tick, and instead feel compelled to push them along from behind. It is an unnatural thing, particularly for a show that had done so well with subtle character development. We now have too many characters to rely on subtle tricks, so instead we get character development rammed down our throats in 6 minute segments every week.

Based on this report, maybe things are going to change this season. I dunno. I hope Orman and his pals can pull it off. But I'm not holding my breath.

-- Mike Sugimoto (, September 15, 2000.

Exactly what everyone has said! Season 1 focused so much on Doug and Mark, Doug and Carol, Carter and Benton, even Carter and Susan, the nurses, even the desk clerks had small plots. I would love to see everyone together for a Mark and Elizabeth wedding (though I'll be disappointed to see whether GC and JM will keep their word and really stay away for Mark's wedding), I would love to see everyone torn between being Carter's friend and being his coworker who needs supervision. I'm glad they know they need to get back to that. I don't think we have to worry, yet. Let's just see if they can improve this commeradery.

-- Elaine (, September 15, 2000.

While I understand the different viewpoints, I have to add my own. Yes, we need to develope the characters that have been thrust on us this last year, so that we can feel for them the same way we felt for Carter and Carol and Doug, et al. We *cared* what happened to them. My exception to what Mr. Orman says comes when he talks about forcusing less on "patient stories". ER came about at it's best when you had a mix of regular character development and some absolutely unforgettable patients. Following some of these patients stories became almost as fascinating to me as the regulars. I do want to see more character development, but I *DON'T* need another year of see almost nothing of a character *besides* his personal life (Mark). I disagree with Mike about ER being a soap opera from the start. I think a person's viewpoint on this matter has a lot to do with why they started watching the show in the beginning. I personally started watching for the medicine. The wonderful characters became an added benefit.

-- Paula (, September 15, 2000.

ER has always been a character driven show; however, that does not make it a soap opera. I'm sure whatever Mr.Orman & his team have in store for us will not disappoint.

-- anne (, September 15, 2000.

I think the patient stories, while being interesting in their own right (sometimes...), have more often than not been vehicles for getting into the main characters' heads. The show is called "ER" since that's primarily where it takes place, so it's natural enough that character development would revolve around the workplace, and the patients involved. The baseball bats have flown around an awful lot, though ("Do you believe people have soulmates, Miss Hathaway?"), with patients not just pointing the way for characters, but actually shoving them down the path at knifepoint at times.

I don't think I'll mind seeing less "patient-driven" stories, provided that whatever they DO use to drive the stories won't be overused. I'd also be concerned that the characters would get too insular--they'll hang around with each other too much, instead of getting out and developing as individuals. I'd hate to see it turn into (worse than a soap opera) an hour-long sitcom like Cheers, where everyone just sits around bitching at each other in the same place every week.

And I'm sooooooo sick and tired of the endless speculations about who'll end up sleeping with who...Please, whatever gods there are, I hope you'll spare us from more in-the-workplace romance on this show. THAT would make it the most soap-opera-like, in my opinion.

-- Cecelia (, September 15, 2000.

Personal relationships aside, I think that ER has become a little too much soap-operish in one sense: everybody is breaking or bending the rules: Romano to help his dog, Liz and Luka against the criminals, etc. I hope next season they'll behave better. I like drama with big ethical questions, but now they dont even hesitate and there seems to be no consequences. If there were consequences, that would help to the show, there would be more dramatic and realistic situations.

-- jules (, September 15, 2000.

I think that Luka and some of the ethical decisions that he has to make really are a great way of developing his character. When Luka was dealing with the pregnant girl in "May Day" and also choosing a child over a shooter, those were the things that really were telling about who Luka is. Many of the situations that occured in season 6 were in the gray area, but I do think there should have been some consequences. I just hope that stupid pranks (i.e. between Deb and Carter) don't continue......

-- Emma (, September 16, 2000.

I think this is good news. We do need to see more character development, and I agree that in the past, a lot of the patients were used to develop the main characters a little more. My main complaint about the last couple of seasons was that the patients were mostly used as ways to introduce the next public service announcement storyline about some disease. I remember the patients from earlier seasons as being very memorable, well-developed people who seemed real. (I just saw the episode with the guy who was obsessed with colors who carried his color notebook around with him. He had one of my favorite ER lines: "This room is warm like flannel. I wish I could wear it.")

And I don't think ER is anything like a soap opera. Have you ever seen a soap opera? People getting married seven times, dying and coming back to life, getting amnesia, cat fights, etc. etc. ER will never be that bad!!

And where did you guys hear that Ming Na is pregnant?

-- Melanie (, September 17, 2000.

Melanie, Ming-Na's pregnancy was reported on Entertainment Tonight and other entertainment shows and magazines. Plus, there is a picture of her at the Emmy's, and she is most definately pregnant.

-- Kristal (, September 18, 2000.

Hello. I enjoyed reading some of your thoughts and posts. My thoughts are with someone above who mentioned that it has always had dramatic elements that some may say is soap operish, but so be it. The thing I dislike, that I find too much like a soap, is if there is too much dating between the staff. That's why I didn't care for Mark/Liz at first b/c you just don't see a co-worker dating multiple co-workers. But I, too, want to know more about Cleo and Malucci et al. But I also have loved the touching patient plots, like Charlie and the man from "Into that Good Night." When there is a great mix of the character development and patient stories, ER works best. A great example is one of my fav episodes: Night Shift. You had Charlie and a few other patient stories that were compelling, but in that one show: Benton found out about Carter and Abby (Keaton); Mark/Chuny hooked up; Carol/Doug had a great friendship going. It just all clicked and did not feel like we were watching a SOAP.

But in the final analysis, we all know this show is now 7 years old. Things are not going to be as they once were, I cannot wait to see it, nevertheless.

-- Larry B. (, September 18, 2000.

I think a majority of the best episodes all have a lot of action and patient care, so it would be a mistake to back away from that. Think of Love's Labor or Exodus or All in the Family or Hell and High Water. I thought last season there was too little urgent trauma.

That said, I'm looking forward to some character development, especially for some of the newer characters. We'll see how it goes.

-- Chris (, September 20, 2000.

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