You'll get no arguments from me that the '90s produced some of the best TV shows of all time. But even when you take a moment to gawp in awe at all of the best TV shows of the '90s, there's still one that stands out as a true champion: ER. Though it went on for 15 colossal seasons, well beyond the era that defined it, there's no denying that ER was one of the best shows of the '90s, and there are a million reasons for that — at least a million. But for now, I've lunged into the dark, swollen depths of my heart, where the show still fondly lives, and pulled out 13 definitive reasons that express the greatest moments from ER's early seasons and its unparalleled genius.
Of all of the compelling TV shows of the '90s, ER was the most compulsive to watch, and that's because it delivered something rare and specific every episode. It wasn't just that the show had a lot of heart, but it also served up the unexpected and the as-yet unseen. It gave fans something that we were all desperate to see and experience, even if we weren't quite aware of that fact yet. But man, when we did finally see and experience it, we were hooked.
1. It Made Medicine Feel Like White-Knuckle Viewing
Seriously, it was edge-of-your-seat viewing every single episode.
2. It Featured An Ensemble Cast Of Incredible Talent...
The main cast during its early seasons featured the phenomenal talents of Julianna Marguiles, George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Alex Kingston, and Noah Wyle. They were legit, you guys.
3. ...Who Were Also Incredibly Hot
Paging Dr. Ross... oh, and also Dr. Greene. Carter, Benton, Kovac, and the rest. You're all wanted in the emergency room — of my heart.
4. It Had The Greatest, Bleakest, & Craziest Plot Twists On TV
Much like the patients of County General Hospital, the plot lines on ER would pretty much come out of nowhere and cause total chaos on screen. There were virus outbreaks, serial killers, exploding helicopters, hostage situations, bombs, and all sorts of insanity happening.
5. It Would Genuinely Make You Squirm With Horror
ER prided itself on its sense of gritty realism. So, of course, that also meant a lot of graphic, gory, medical procedures that would make you shriek, "Tell me when it's over" week after week.
6. Love Stories Were Played Out With As Much Urgent Intensity As Emergency Surgery
My goodness, there were a lot of couples worth shipping on this show. And whatever magic they worked on ER meant that all of us shipped them hard. To this day, let's all be thankful of the fact that Dr. Ross and Nurse Hathaway enjoyed a happy ending. They were one of the only couples that did.
7. The Show Always Strived To Take Risks
Including the live episode of Season 4. And, if you don't understand quite how much of a risk that is, then just watch the above side by side comparison of the East Coast and West Coast live versions (they filmed separate for both time zones) to see the impeccable levels of perfection at work on every level.
8. It Was One Of The First TV Shows That Felt Truly Cinematic
I mean, it was produced by Steven Spielberg, so obviously it was cinematic, but a TV show filmed on such an epic scale felt monumental and new in the '90s.
9. It Would Have You In Absolute Tears At Least Once Every Episode
At least. With the torrid romances of the staff, the unexpected deaths of main characters, the emotional labor of the suffering patients, and the general overall stress experienced by all of the characters, ER was a tear-jerker on a regular basis.
10. Though It Could Be Dark, It Could Also Be Quirky
I mean, this is a show where a guy plucking a turkey in the ER, or a nurse skating down the hall in roller skates, were things that actually happened. Through its sense of bleak realism, ER always remembered to maintain a sense of lightness and fun.
11. It Made You Genuinely Care About The Main Characters
I don't know about you guys, but I got seriously attached to every damn character. This made it feel all the more harrowing and heartbreaking when they left the show, or worse, died tragically.
12. It Featured Female Characters Who Were Undeniable Feminist Heroes
Shoutouts to Hathaway, Weaver, Lockhart, Corday, and later, Rasgotra and Taggart. These were women who were smart, forthright, and ambitious, who felt real in vital ways. I loved every last one of them — and still do.
13. It Featured The Most Shocking Death Scenes On TV
It doesn't matter how old I get, I'll never get over the moment that Carter discovers Lucy's dying body, the discovery of Gant's pager on the dead patient's body, or those final moments of Dr. Greene. And they were just a handful of an endless, traumatic list of deaths that the show completely obliterated me with. Thanks, ER.
Yeah, I'm definitely going to have to clear my schedule for an emotional marathon watch of ER. At least now I can rewatch the show as a grown woman, and ready myself with a strong drink in preparation for all the show's most harrowing moments. Oh, and holler as loud as I want whenever Clooney's on-screen — yes, that too.