ER's Missing Ingredient

I confess to being a year behind the curve on this whole ER thing. I know it's supposed to be the bright hope of network drama-dom. And, in fact, it was playing weekly at my house throughout the first season. But I could never stay in the same room with it more than 10 minutes at a time.

That isn't a statement about the show, it's a statement about me. At the time my real life was a lot like the inside of an urban emergency room on a Saturday night. I was cramming a three-year grad school program into two years, with a part-time job and two book projects on the side, and spending about half my daylight hours in the company of a 2-year-old.

It wasn't the heart attacks and heavy bleeding that drove me away from ER; it was all those times when Eric LaSalle was doing surgery and looking at the clock knowing that he was 20 minutes late getting home to his sick mama. Or when Anthony Edwards was missing yet another date with his increasingly estranged wife. get my drift.

Those time-crunch situations are woven into every ER episode. Every time they came up, it would remind me of some project or task of my own that was hopelessly behind schedule and the nervous tension would start to build. Why, I wondered, would anyone find this amusing?

The constant refrain of "I'm late, I'm late, I'm late..." is still an integral part of ER's narrative drive. This season brings the weekly adventures of the doctor who's always late to fetch her sister's abandoned baby. But my life has quieted to a dull roar, and I've finally gotten with the mass entertainment program.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1996
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