Anthony EdwardsZa2pit's blog had a post on 11th about Anthony Edwards' return to E.R. that got me thinking a little bit about why I quit watching this show, and why other shows have kept my attention for basically an entire decade. There's actually a great parallel between E.R. and another show that ran a good ten years itself, where both shows lost their star because no actors really want to spend a quarter of their career -- such a huge chunk of their lives -- doing the same thing over and over again.
Not when they could be spending that time with their families. I don't know that Anthony Edwards left E.R. to spend more time with his family, but based on what is in the post I just linked to, I have to assume that it was the main reason he walked away from television and from one of the most successful dramas of its era.
E.R. was interesting at first because I'd never seen a medical drama that was so intense before, everything I'd ever seen before that more traditional drama, personal conflict type stuff. E.R. took it to another level entirely, there was so much energy in scenes when the characters did their thing to save people's lives that it would literally make the hair on your arms stand up. I loved that feeling, although it wasn't the only reason to watch, it was kind of like a cheap high without actually ingesting anything. On the other hand those moments were not without their price -- when the action fell away and the drama kicked in, you'd come down off that emotional high and fall into troughs of depression that made you want to shoot yourself by the time the credits were rolling.
That was made all the more worse by the superb acting of the early cast -- to their credit -- this show was the first one where I'd turn to my family members around the end of the third act and we'd catch the same look on each other's faces, and always the same phrase would come out: "gee, what a happy show.."
You'd wonder why you sat there knowing you were going to be slightly depressed by the time it was over, and yet you'd do it to yourself every single week.
Ultimately though I did lose interest. Some of the original cast having found success for the first time on E.R. immediately thought they could step onto a movie set and become true stars and the top of their game. Ironically it was Anthony Edwards that made made me watch the show initially, because I knew he was a great actor from movies I'd seem him in and I'd check out anything he was in just based on cred. And of all the people that tried to use E.R. as a springboard to a movie career, only Clooney actually made it happen. Everyone else, people like Sherry Stringfield, tried and never made it work.
I've got to admit that it was that arrogance that played a large part in being turned off by the show. I liked that original cast, I invested myself in those characters as did everyone who tuned in to watch every week. When the actors decided that E.R. was nothing but a way point, something they could use up and throw away on their path to stardom, throwing away those characters and their chemistry and that place, it really did make me resent the whole deal.
I'm not sure there's ever been a series in my time (short as it may be) where a series took off like E.R. did, and the cast abandoned ship as quickly as that one did. Obviously that's their right, they can go and do whatever they want with their careers, but they can't then turn and blame me for walking away too or for not following them into the theaters. And I know a lot of the actors that left for movie careers ended up coming back when things didn't quite work out the way they thought things would, but it was too late by then.
At least for me.
With Anthony Edwards coming back for a single episode, as was true in the beginning so it was true in the end, I had a reason to sit down and watch E.R. again.
I set my DVR to record E.R. for the first time ever -- DVRs didn't exist back when I watched E.R., oh god, age...old...ugh -- and last Thursday I saw the show for the first time in what has to be over five years, maybe more. I stopped watching this show when it became obvious they were going to kill off Greene, and really I should have tuned out before that when they gave him a stalker. I mean seriously, an E.R. doctor with a stalker? Maybe they should have given E.R. cancer at that point instead of Greene and gone out when it wasn't so embarrassing as desperate.
To be honest -- I love saying that because it's universally recognized as a way to say mean shit and get away with it -- I didn't even watch the whole episode because I had absolutely no interest in seeing all these strangers inhabit my former home. I knew before hand that Greene was only going to appear in some flashbacks so I also knew that everything outside of those flashbacks would be totally irrelevant to what I wanted. Thanks to the DVR I was able to skip everything except the scenes that Edwards was in, and I loved every minute of what I saw -- I missed this -- and then deleted it for the last time.
Some day I'll get all the old seasons on DVD and enjoy the good years, maybe catch up on some of the seasons where the cast had bailed but Anthony Edwards was still there, but I'll never watch this crap they have on today.
And so here's the part that got me to thinking, E.R. has been on the air for fifteen years. That's crazy for any TV show, and yet that was probably about ten years too many for me to stay interested. But that's not always the case here. Firefly only lasted 13 episodes -- far too many for any show -- but I think I could have watched that show forever. Buffy went seven seasons and as good as it was in 6 & 7, I would have been game for three more. Angel went for five seasons and based on that final season, I'd have been game for at least three more.
Seeing a trend here with Joss Whedon shows? Shhh, I won't tell..
But here's the big one for me: Stargate SG-1 ran 10 years and I would have begged for 10 more. I'm not kidding, and I'm not a fanboy either. That show was good enough every single year but different enough from arc to arc that it just never got old. If ever there was a science fiction equivalent to Law & Order, it's the Stargate franchise. SG-1 ran for 10 years, Atlantis will have run for 5 years, and Stargate Universe is right around the corner.
Dick Wolf better watch out, he's got serious competition these days from our friends up north.
Now call me crazy but maybe the reason I could take 20 years of SG-1 but only five or six of E.R., even though E.R. I think had a better cast originally and far better directing -- in so much as directing makes a difference with television -- is because E.R. was stuck in a hospital all its life while Stargate shows can literally go anywhere in the universe at a moments notice. It is literally, even more so than Star Trek ever was, the first true show with an unlimited physical reality with which to tell stories.
That's ironic since every show including Stargate are filmed on a few remote locations and the rest entirely inside a couple of huge warehouse sets, never technically going anywhere.
Anyway, if a few years when Edwards' kids grow up into their teens, it appears as if he might be ready to come back to television or film to finish out his career. Buddy, considering some of the guest stars that SG-1 has had along with recurring characters, there will always be a spot for you through the Stargate.