Is it me, or is the show becoming a tad predicatable? : LUSENET : ER Discussions : One Thread

I know I'll probably be stoned to death for asking this, but is it me, or is the show becoming a little bit less "Oh wow!" and a little bit more "Oh wow, I knew that was going to happen?"

Don't get me wrong. The show is still spectacular, but it's losing it's edge. You can see the plot twists a mile away. Even without the recently posted spoiler, we all know that that spinal surgery case with Elizabeth is going to come back and bite her in the butt. I mean, Dr. Romano was already dogging her for it before he had to come back and fix that guy's back. I mean, besides the bizarre traumas that come in, the plot with the cast is becoming predictable.

What happened to the curve balls from last season? Did anyone suspect that Lucy would DIE? Or that Carter would flip out like he did?

Perhaps if something earth-shattering were to if Dr. Weaver and Dr. Romano get caught kissing in the board room by Dr. Benton. Now THAT is a plot twist.

-- Michael M. Williams II (, November 22, 2000


And absolutely out of character, but who cares about such things as consistency, right?

-- jules (, November 22, 2000.

I think the writers are trying too hard ... IMHO, there's just too much "big bang" melodramatic stuff and less of the subtle, make-viewers-think-and-keep-us-dangling stuff. I was hoping Jing-Mei's pregnancy would be one of those, and was really disappointed last week with how "blah" it turned out when she told the father. It all started with the Lucy murder/Carter stabbing, and now it seems like every epi has some kind of major event -- muggings, explosions, brain cancer, unexpected pregnancy, bipolar mom, etc. I'd like to see more of the subtle interactions between characters and verbal/emotional cliffhangers (I loved the whole Elizabeth/Benton/Romano triangle, Mark's dealing with his father's illness and death, and I'd like to see more of Carter and of Jing-Mei's struggle to keep or adopt out her baby and how her family reacts. Aren't we supposed to see an unexpected visit from her mother soon?)

-- Cindy (, November 22, 2000.

The only reason I can predict things is because I get spoilers from here and other places. Although, I think if (highlight to see) ***NBC wanted Elizabeth's pregnancy to be a BIG surprise, they should have made the commercial a little less revealing.

-- Stephanie (, November 22, 2000.

I agree with Cindy, I think that TPTB are trying to hard to make each week more shocking than the last. I guess the viewers are partly to blame afterall AITF was the highest rated episode for that season, so I can hardly blame TPTB thinking that stabbings, shootings, etc., are the way to get ratings. As for suspecting Lucy would die...I did because I knew that KM was leaving the show, however it didn't make the episode any less intense for me. I have a bone to pick with TPTB or NBC (cause it's there promo that made me mad). In the promos they made the statement that this was the episode that would change everything. However, after AITF the only change we saw was in Carter. I guess by now I really should know better.....

-- Emma (, November 22, 2000.

Emma- I was thinking the exact thing. I saw the promos for AITF and MD and they both were very misleading. Not only that but in the TV Guide for MD it said that Carters ultimatum will change the ER forever. Um, Carter didn't give the ultimatum. Mark did. And this changed the ER how?

-- Cammie (, November 22, 2000.

I have a big complaint about writing for any show where they start focusing on events and remove the focus off characters. This makes it okay to alter a character just to get a big bang with the audience. I think ER has swung hard towards being a event driven drama instead of a character driven drama - much in the way soap operas are. At the same time, it's clear that TPTB know we like the show because of the characters, so they have started throwing in scenes that are there simply for one or another main character to react in a certain way. It used to be that the stories of the patients were done with a certain amount of caring. Now I feel like the patients are there just to bring out a certain irony or emotion in a main character. Jing-Mei has a pregnancy case so we can all feel the irony of her situation. Carter has yet another patient that will remind us that he is sensitive and that his job weighs heavily on his soul, and so on and so forth. This makes the characters feel as gimmicky as the explosion/crash/trauma of the week. I keep swearing I'm no longer going to watch, yet the TV is on again every Thursday. WHY????? At this point the only reason I'm watching is because of Keri Weaver and Peter Benton. Even Robert "The Little Man" Romano is becoming a caricature, and I'm probably one of the few Rocket Romano fans out there.

-- Sacha (, November 22, 2000.

I agree. The show is taking on more of a soap opera quality. Even though Jing-Mei's baby was a nice twist, after we find out who the father is, it takes on sort of a Young & The Restless vibe, you know? The show needs some more out of the box (and if necessary, out of character) plot twists to keep it going.

-- Michael M. Williams II (, November 22, 2000.

"The show is taking on more of a soap opera quality. Even though Jing-Mei's baby was a nice twist, after we find out who the father is, it takes on sort of a Young & The Restless vibe, you know? The show needs some more out of the box (and if necessary, out of character) plot twists to keep it going. " I dont understand what you are saying, you admit it's Y&R but you want some more "out of character" that contradictory or what?

-- jules (, November 22, 2000.

It's hard to be surprised about new episodes when one has been reading spoilers and press releases, for one thing. I know there are many folks out there who attempt to remain spoiler-free--but they do have a hard time of it, at least the ones who participate in online discussion forums. I only started coming to places like this site and the newsgroup last April or so, and I now find I'm more likely to expect what's going to happen because I hear about everything so far ahead of time, and every little detail gets hashed out. (That's not to say I haven't been waaaaaay wrong--I didn't believe Carol was going to get back together with Doug, since I charitably assumed that the writers wouldn't pull such a formulaic ending on us.)

I'm not complaining, before someone jumps in and tells me to go away if I don't like it here--I just think that it's hard to be as surprised by upcoming events when the upcoming events are talked about in such exhaustive detail by so many people before and after the episode airs. I imagine that if we stayed away from forums such as these somewhat, we wouldn't see some of these things coming. I've already decided to cut back on my participation in the newsgroup, partly for that reason. But I still enjoy the spoilers, so what do I know? :)

Eh. It's probably also harder for the writers to think of original story arcs after all this time--the Baby Thing has been done, the Near-Death Experience has been done, the Troubled Past has been done, the Almost-Getting-Fired Thing has been done, the Substance Abuse Thing has been done...not to mention, Illicit Sex With a Co-Worker, Tacit Sex With a Co-Worker, Blatant Sex With a Co-Worker, etc. And there's only so much character exposition you can cram into an episode, I suppose...

-- Cecelia (, November 22, 2000.

There are too many explosions *diseases of the week* etc. Er needs to get back to medical cases not medical melodrama. In ways it has become too soap-operish but if you look at some of the *realistic* long-running soaps (they're not all mindless or stupid) you will see storylines going on for years and characters who are so complex the writers can write rich storylines and explore character for years (any Another World fan can probably relate-still miss that show, or check out As the World turns). These storylines can have repercussions that live on for years (one example on er would be Jing- mei or if you prefer Deb's child-if she gave up the baby she would probably have feelings about this for many years). With Carter of course you'd have the drug addiction. People deal with addiction for the rest of their lives. I'd like to see er go back to its simpler beginnings and focus more on the people. If we wanted explosions we'd go check out an Arnold Schwartzeneger flick.

-- Laura (, November 22, 2000.

I don't want to disparage soaps or their fans--I confess there was a brief period of my life when I watched One Life to Live. (I can't remember why...) But one of the key things they have going for them as far as plot and character development is that they are on EVERY DAY of the week. (That's also something of a flaw--they have to churn out their episodes fairly quickly, so the writing and often the acting may suffer as a result of the speed with which they have to proceed.) But the stories can progess in something like real time, or even faster, that way, since there's ample time to explore all the little subplots and intrigues. Every day.

But a show that only gets about 22 episodes a year in which to develop the characters of a dozen or so cast members--well, it's got its disadvantages there. Many of us feel that wouldn't be so much of a bear of a problem if they'd just cut down on the cast size--but that horse has been beaten to a bloody pulp and is busily decomposing, so I won't go there again. :)

-- Cecelia (, November 22, 2000.

The other problem is that ER has a lot of guest stars who are on short term contracts. The contract is up and seldom are references made to the departed.

The same applies to departed stars. Would it really hurt the writers to have a comment or two about Susan, Doug or Carol? Did Mark really get over Susan that easily? For instance, someone could say "I'm sorry, but that is how Dr. Ross did that that way" to Cleo, if indeed Cleo is now taking the pediatric cases. It would smooth the transition. We all know that Abby is filling some of the role that Carol left. But, no one mentions it. That is a little weird

-- Zorbo (, November 22, 2000.

I think it all depends on why (each of us) watches ER. Some are here for the action packed episodes; some got attracted because of the character development; some are interested on the medical aspect. That is clear. Now just to clarify, what are we talking about? are we talking about "ER being too predictable" or "ER not being unpredictable enough" or "ER not coming up with something new"?? Fomr my point of view those are 3 different things. I've read mistery novels and many times I've found myself thinking "this is going to happen to Mrs Whatever because yadda-yadda" and I've been right a number of those times, because I was following a logical process. I was thinking, which is the objective of books and in an ideal world, that should be the objective of TV shows, and radio shows,etc. So in my opinion if you find yourself thinking: "Benton will do this and that" and you are right, that's good, you're doing more than just staring at somebody's great body. Now if you think it's not unpredictable enough, ask yourselves what you are silling to lose on the way? Someone mentioned that acting out of character was OK. Are you sure? I've seen dozens of posts of people who hate when they behave in an illogical manner (and wrote some myself) and said "THAT is soap operish". Finally, if this is about "ER not trying something new", well, that is a different thing, you can come up with many plots that break new ground without being out-character. In my opinion, developing multidimensional, life-like characters who behave "in-character" is the biggest challenge for any writer or group of writers, because it demands both creativity and consistency.

-- jules (, November 22, 2000.

I have to agree with Laura on wishing the show would go back to simpler stories, a slower pace. Today I caught Going Home on TNT, and was amazed at what a beautiful episode it was. And not a darn *exciting, shocking* event occured. Reminded me of why I love ER, and why I love the characters. I wish they would remind me again in season 7, because it hasn't happened yet.

Happy Thanksgiving! Kathy

-- Kathy (, November 22, 2000.

And they were "in-character" Kathy, lets not forget that, hehehe. Ok, everybody sing with me:"Memories, light the corners of my miiiiiind..." Happy Thanksgiving Day, everybody

-- jules (, November 23, 2000.

Thanks Jules for a great post. You said it better than I could have.

I'd like to add that I as a relatively new fan get awfully tired of hearing about how much the show sucks now and how great it used to be. People: it was *never* a masterpiece. In early seasons there were moments of greatness. These moments sucked you in, made you love the show. Because of your love of the show you overlooked the inconsistencies, the mischaracterizations, the hanging plots, the medical mistakes, and the subplots you didn't like. But then you started expecting to find those moments of greatness in *every* episode, and harping on anything that fell short. Now I, who watched occasionally through the years, and got hooked after AITF, go on message boards and see every single episode torn apart because it fails to live up to someone's preconceived idea of how it should be. I really think that people who bemoan how the show has fallen just don't watch the early seasons with the same critical eye, because I've seen the reruns on TNT and every episode has problems. I don't care -- I enjoy it for the high points and tend to tune out for the low points. And really, for an ensemble show with multiple plots both small and large in every episode and spanning multiple episodes, that's the way it has to be. Not everything can appeal to every viewer, and everything will appall some viewers and enthrall others. And if you find *nothing* to enjoy about the show -- go read a book.

End of rant. :)

-- Bonny (, November 23, 2000.

Bonny: The difference between what we (I'm using "we" as a placeholder for "anyone who has been watching since the pilot and feels that the quality has declined in recent years") see now and what we saw then has nothing to do with perspective. It has everything to do with losing faith in the audience.

This is part of a trend I'm seeing in most popular media -- a move away from nuance and suggestion towards explicitness and single truths. Old episodes were like good literature: you could think about them for a while and toss meanings around in your head; now, you still have to think about an episode, but it's to figure out what the hell the people behind it were thinking. Episodes from the early years of the series were thoughtful and carefully crafted and they presumed the audience was smart enough to figure things out on their own. I don't need to see Carter get two of his patients whacked week after week to figure out he's having a rough time of it -- I can figure that out by myself.

Things on the show happen now because the script says they should, not because it's a "natural" evolution of the world that has been created on the show. It's kind of like watching a romantic comedy and seeing the two leads have a fight over something truly stupid just so they can get back together in a tearful reunion. I hate that. (First example that comes to mind: The "fight" in Jerry Maguire.) It's clankingly obvious why it happened, and it's a cheap, manipulative way to get an emotional "awww" reaction out of the audience. Emotional reactions and pathos are fine, but there's a difference between invoking pathos and beating the audience over the head and hoping they'll start sobbing.

The most glaring example of this was the hateful Meg plot line from last season with Hathaway. Look, I got the message. I do not need to see that Hathaway is concerned about motherhood and pregnancy and doing The Right Thing for her kids. I didn't need to see her agonize over Meg and every other pregnant woman who came into the emergency department -- it was overkill.

The show feels rushed and urgent these days. Older episodes had a better sense of pacing, and the producers weren't afraid to let important storylines develop over a long period of time. Long meant three and a half years in some cases; today, I think a "long story" would involve a four-episode arc, at best. We saw the aftermath of Greene's beating in the men's room for almost a year and a half, and it continued to manifest itself in strange ways for quite some time thereafter.. they're heading in this direction with Carter, but I fear they're going to reach for some kind of pathos-laden catharsis one week and then have him back to "normal" the next.

The bottom line is this: I want to stop having messages smacked against my head. I get it. I do not need to have everything spelled out in three mile high illuminated letters that will eventually collapse and bury half of the damn sign.

Now go stick your head in a pig.

-- Mike Sugimoto (, November 23, 2000.

Now go stick your head in a pig?

-- Bonny (, November 23, 2000.

Considering the season, wouldnt a turkey be better?

-- jules (, November 23, 2000.

Douglas Adams fan, huh Mike?

-- Cecelia (, November 23, 2000.

Amen, Mike, I wish TPTB would put the bats away. At the risk of evoking the "good old days," consider the movie "M" (1931) which is about a man who murders children. At one point a little girl walks by with a balloon. Then a man walks by in the same direction. A little later we see the balloon floating away. That's it: no blood, no chainsaw. The creators gave the audience credit for being able to figure out what happened. And it's very effective, because each viewer can imagine something that is more horrible (for that viewer) than anything the film could have shown.

Basically I enjoy ER but there's plenty of room for improvement. Let's hope TPTB are able to restrain themselves from giving Greene and Corday patients who have brain tumors and pregnant wives.

Surgeons in the real world have specialties, but the surgeons on ER seem to do all kinds of surgery. Corday's surgery last week on the surfer's herniated disk, for example: would that normally be done by a neurosurgeon?

-- Driad (, November 24, 2000.

M is a particularly good example because thriller and horror directors have often relied more on what is implied than what is explicit, a lesson ER would do well to emulate. (That scene is one of my favorites in all of film, actually.) I suspect that most of what's driving this trend towards having spelled-out plots is a feeling that the audience is stupid or doesn't have the patience to figure things out on their own, but this is a flawed argument: The Blair Witch Project was a wildly popular film, and it spent more time worrying about the idea of the things that went bump in the night rather than the actual things that went bump.

It's kind of like photographing or painting artistic nudes. What you don't see is often more effective than what you do see. Explicit nudity gets boring after a while, but I can look at the curve of a back for hours and not get sick of it. (Well, not necessarily, but you get the point. What we see is more interesting that what is unseen.)

Yipee! Someone got it!

-- Mike Sugimoto (, November 24, 2000.

"Share and Enjoy..."

-- Cecelia (, November 24, 2000.

I totally agree with the poster, Mike, and whoever else; in fact, Mike's first post really put it wonderfully. I guess I wasn't really realizing what I missed from the first seasons. I really couldn't determine whether things were too spelled out for me, basically because I have read all of the spoilers and hardly anything is a surprise to me anymore. I loved Driad's comment...I sure hope they don't stick M&E with a husband w/ a brain tumor and an expecting wife! Too funny. Though the patient in "Flight of Fancy" kind of took care of the baseball bat prematurly, for those who knew the spoilers. At least they only gave Deb about 1 baby case so far. As for Carter, they gave him a possible drug addict, who Carter uncharactaristically showed little compassion for at first. I guess, though, that surprised me, because I thought they'd turn it into an obvious "lesson" for Carter, which they didn't (well, they did, but not in the personal, "this was me a few months ago" way, which is good).

-- Elaine (, November 25, 2000.

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