Tuesday, January 8, 2019

10 Years of Bitter Posts - ER week and TV deep dives

Working my way through my old posts, I see it only took me a couple months to do my first deep-dive theme week on a TV show. It was March 2009 and ER was just about to finish a 15 year run on the air. Having watched the series pretty much since the beginning - and with the morning TNT reruns a staple of my viewing while I started my day - I saw an opportunity to use the show as a teaching tool.

It was the first time I felt like I really went in-depth on a topic, and probably one of the first times I strayed so far from my direct experience as a script reader. A lot more work went into these posts, but it was more satisfying because I always enjoyed talking about what I loved than bitching about what I hated.

When you're putting so much energy into communicating your opinion, you're more easily fueled by an appreciation for the topic rather than distain. This is not to say I don't enjoy the occasional "Oh, fuck THIS" post, because I do, but I have far more enthusiasm for a series of posts that go "Oh my god! This is so awesome! Let me count the ways so you can take it in and see how this is awesome too!"

This might be how I ended up writing a thirteen part-series on 13 REASONS WHY. It's DEFINITELY how I ended up writing an love letter to the 16 Great TV Shows that made me the writer I am today.

But my blog's virginity for that approach was lost to ER, almost ten years ago.

Part 1 is an examination of the pilot script and the main characters:

I recently rewatched the pilot for the first time in several years and several things struck me. First, at the time it premiered, I remember all the hype about how ER moved too fast, the camera never slowed down, the editing was too quick and MTV-like. It just goes to show you how things change in 15 years of TV because the pace was a bit more leisurely than on most ER episodes today, and the moving camera wasn’t nearly the breakneck pace it was made out to be. The lighting was also more diffused and “natural,” along with a more muted color palate. It’s as if they were making an effort to be “real.” If I wanted to be glib, I’d say that the current incarnation of the show is like the TV-version of the original series. 

But never mind much of that because we’re here to talk about writing. There are five regular characters introduced in the pilot: Doctors Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), Doug Ross (George Clooney), Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield), med student John Carter (Noah Wyle) and surgeon Peter Benton (Eriq la Salle). (Nurse Hathaway is in the pilot as well, but at the time of production she was not intended as a regular character and was in fact, supposed to be killed off in the episode, but more on that later this week.) The premise is simple – we’re a fly-on-the-wall for 24 hours in the life of Chicago’s Cook County General emergency room.

Part 2 takes a look at a two-character scene where one of the doctors has to break it to a patient that they have terminal cancer.

Part 3 examines another pivotal scene, the doctors reacting to Hathaway's suicide attempt.

Part 4 is a deep-dive into one of my favorite episodes, "All in the Family," aka the one where the ER staff fights to save Carter and Lucy after a stabbing.

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