||[May. 13th, 2004|10:59 pm]
ER is a show everyone in our family is addicted to. Sure it's a bloody-minded night-time melodrama, but it's also really well written, well acted, and with memorable characters. It's been on forever -- ten years or something, and Noah Wylie is the only original cast member left. A few years ago it kind of had it's mid-life crisis and sorta sucked but this season has been an amazing comeback, from the first 2 episodes set mostly in the Congo, to the season finale tonight.|
My favorite character on the show tonight actually had minimal screen time -- Laura Innes as Dr. Carrie Weaver. Weaver lost her lover -- who was a firefighter -- a few episodes ago, and is involved in a custody battle for the baby they had together. Her lover's family is conservative Catholic, and didn't approve of their relationship, and don't want to give the baby up. She gave a short, gentle speech to the judge in the custody trial tonight that was devestating in its vulnerability and directness.
Maybe having a gay parent in a custody battle is a 'ripped from the headlines' plot device, but when it done this well, it's more than that. It occurred to me that for a significant percentage of the show's audience, the Carrie Weaver character may be the first lesbian mother they've ever known. The Congo episodes were similar in that they held up the horrible difficulties of life in Africa to an audience that may never have thought for more than a moment about what's gone on in the past ten years in sub-Saharan Africa.
ER managed to personalize both situations without being preachy or condescending. The medical focus, the dead-run pacing, and the effective acting make immediate and concrete what can be for a lot of people abstract and remote. Compared to this, "West Wing" does little more than talk similar issues to death. If a television series can be something more than a way to sell soap, this is one way to do it, and in this, ER excels.
It can also be really funny too, like the nurse that said last week "all that men think about is food, sports, and sex. If they invent a refrigerator with a wide screen and a vagina, we're in trouble."