34 Unforgettable 'ER' Moments, From Helicopter Tragedies To Exploding Ambulances
Before Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, or House, there was ER, the original powerhouse medical drama. The show premiered on September 19, 1994 on NBC and ran for 15 seasons — some of which were great, and some of which were less than stellar. This April marks 10 years since the ER series finale, but while the wildest things that happened on ER may seen vanilla by today's standards, there's no question that there were some seriously chaotic goings on at Chicago's own County General.
Over its 15-year run, the series featured numerous memorable storylines, featuring actors ranging from George Clooney to Linda Cardellini to Shane West. And after ER was added to Hulu in January 2018, many people either rediscovered its bonkers storylines or watched, enraptured, for the first time as a fresh-faced John Carter (Noah Wyle) bumbled his way around the hospital, Dr. Ross (Clooney) flirted with every woman in sight, and Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) set the tone for the rest of the staff.
But even on a series as compelling as ER, there were some lackluster seasons (the last few were particularly rough), questionable character development, and unexplained plot points. Here are 34 of the wildest yet also most endearing moments that ER provided over the years.
1. When Shiri Appleby Appeared In the Pilot As a Pregnant Teen...
Long before the actor would star in UnREAL, she played a character named Ms. Murphy, who comes into the emergency room with what turns out to be an ectopic pregnancy.
...Then Appeared In the Final Season As a Different Character
Here, Appleby appears as an intern named Dr. Daria Wade. And while it's not out-of-the-question that she could have changed her name at some point, Daria never mentions any visit to County General as a teenager.
2. When Dr. Ross Revealed He Had a Son
While Doug Ross (George Clooney) and Carol eventually end up having twins together, he mentions he has another child he hasn't met at one point during Season 1.
3. When Doug Rescued That Boy From a Storm Drain
The episode where hot pediatrician Doug Ross saves a young boy named Ben from drowning made him a star, both onscreen and off. Perhaps one of the most dramatic shots in the series is Doug bursting out of the water, Ben in his arms, as a helicopter hovers overhead.
4. When Chuny and Dr. Greene Briefly Dated
After getting divorced from his first wife, Mark has a short fling with the nurse Chuny Marquez (Laura Cerón). But when the excitement fizzles out, she breaks things off.
5. When Dr. Anspaugh Had a Young Son
Toward the beginning of the series, then-Chief of Staff Dr. Anspaugh (John Aylward) has a young son with lymphoma. While Nurse Jeanie Boulet (Gloria Reuben) diligently takes care of Scott until the boy dies, that Anspaugh seems old enough to be the boy's grandfather is never really explained.
6. When Carter and Lucy Got Stabbed By a Schizophrenic Patient
Carter is deeply affected when he and Lucy (Kellie Martin) are stabbed by a schizophrenic man named Paul. While Lucy is killed, Carter suffers from PTSD and becomes a drug addict.
Side note: Paul was played by David Krumholtz, who would go on to star in Numb3rs, and his girlfriend was portrayed by Gilmore Girls fixture Liza Weil.
7. When Dr. Romano Made Dr. Corday Do Surgery On His Dog
Much to her chagrin, Dr. Corday (Alex Kingston) is forced to perform surgery on her boss's furry friend. To make matters worse, Elizabeth's critical mom finds out when she makes an unannounced visit to County General, thoroughly embarrassing her.
8. When Jing-Mei's Coworkers Kept Calling Her Deb
Even after repeatedly asking everyone to please call her by her Chinese name, Jing-Mei (Ming-Na Wen) continued to get called Deb until she left the show.
9. When Luka Violently Killed a Mugger
When Luka Kovač (Goran Visnjic) and Abby get held up, the Croatian doctor retaliates by repeatedly hitting their attacker's head against the sidewalk.
10. When Jing-Mei Got Pregnant and Gave the Baby Away
After becoming pregnant with a male nurse's child, Jing-Mei decides to give her baby up for adoption. She doesn't make the choice lightly, and Carter gives emotional support to his friend.
11. When Reese Turned Out Not to Be Benton's Biological Son
Although Dr. Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle) and his girlfriend, Carla, have broken up by the time she discovers she's pregnant, she claims that he's the father. However, Peter finds out much later that he's not; regardless, he still raises Reese as his own, gaining custody after Carla dies in a car accident.
12. When Luka Saw Sex Workers After Breaking Up with Abby
Luka is a sad sack for his entire run of the show, experiencing one tragedy after another. First, his wife and children are killed back in Croatia, then Carol leaves him to be with Doug, then Abby breaks up with him. He finally can't take it anymore and begins seeing sex workers, which is a surprising choice for his character.
13. When Don Cheadle Played a Doctor with Parkinson's
Don Cheadle's aspiring surgeon, Paul Nathan, felt very gimmicky. While Parkinson's Disease is obviously no laughing matter, it seemed very contrived-for-TV to feature his character in a profession where steady hands are an essential part of the job.
14. When Weaver Stabbed Someone with the Wrong Needle On-Camera
Dr. Weaver (Laura Innes) goes on local news to discuss the importance of getting your flu shot. But when she goes to demonstrate on the anchors, she forgets to switch needles, and uses a dirty one on live TV.
15. When Dr. Romano Lost His Arm to a Helicopter...
After a costly mistake with a helicopter propeller, the cocky surgeon is forced to learn how to practice medicine with one arm. It... does not go well.
16. And Then Got Killed By a SECOND Helicopter!
Depending on your opinion of Dr. Romano, that a second chopper crushes him to death is either karmic or tragic. Whichever it is, you have to admit that this scene is absolutely buckwild.
17. When Everyone Decided to Go to Africa
Africa first became a plot point in Season 9, when Kovač and Carter go to the Congo through Doctors Without Borders. Throughout the next six seasons, these two ER characters make other trips to the continent, as does Greg Pratt (Mekhi Phifer). And when Carter leaves the show in Season 11, he moves to Africa to be with his girlfriend, Kem (Thandie Newton).
18. When Luka Was Kidnapped
While he's in the Congo, Luka is captured by the Mai Mai and is only let go when they believe he is a priest.
19. When Morris Was Hunted By Someone in a Military Tank
After Dr. Morris (Scott Grimes) ruffles someone's feathers, the disgruntled ER patient retaliates by driving a military tank straight at County General.
20. When Gallant Died In Iraq
After Gallant (Sharif Atkins) and Neela (Parminder Nagra) hastily get married, the military doctor gets killed by a bomb when he returns to the field.
21. When They Introduced Victor Clemente
Everything about John Leguizamo's ER character was wild — from his dramatic entrance on the show to his growing mental problems to his girlfriend's violent husband. Clemente left the ER as he entered it: as a patient.
22. When That Balcony Full of People Collapsed
During a house party that Morris and Ray (Shane West) attend, the entire balcony collapses, and many of the party-goers are killed.
23. When Shane West's Legs Were Amputated
After walking drunkenly into the street after Luka and Abby's wedding, Ray is hit by a car. As a result, his legs are amputated, and West left the show soon after.
24. When Dubenko Asked Abby An Odd Request
After Lucien Dubenko (Leland Orser) is diagnosed with prostate cancer, he asks Abby to have sex with him, just in case he loses the ability post-surgery. However, she politely declines.
25. When Dr. Clemente Smuggled a Chimp Into the ER
A sick baby chimp is one of the more unconventional patients they've had at County General.
26. When Morris Revealed He Had Four Nipples
The goofy doctor is nervous about a date he's going on and confides to Pratt that he's got two extra nipples.
27. When Morris Finds Out He's a Father...Multiple Times Over
Five redheaded children show up at County General and explain that Morris is their father. While first taken aback, he is soon excited to be the hands-on dad that it's soon clear his offspring aren't looking for.
28. When Sam Murdered Her Ex-Husband
Sam Taggart (Linda Cardellini) was another character to have a rough go of it. After her felon ex-husband kidnaps her and her son, Alex, she shoots him in self-defense.
29. When Abby Jumped Off a Bus
Jurassic Park has nothing on this episode of ER, in which Abby saves several people from a vehicle that is teetering off the edge of a cliff.
30. When Forest Whitaker Held Abby Hostage
Curtis Ames (Whitaker) was a disgruntled patient of Luka's who retaliates by holding Abby captive. Eventually, Ames shoots himself in front of Luka.
31. When Archie, a Total Doofus, Randomly Became An Excellent Doctor
When was it that Dr. Morris, the man who used to hide in the bathroom asking his dad medical questions on the phone, evolved into a competent physician? It's unclear, but it makes no sense that he didn't have his license revoked.
32. When Tony Adopted His Deceased Best Friend's Daughter
Tony Gates (John Stamos) was not a well-formed character, but his relationship with Sarah was perhaps the most confusing. After his best friend dies in Iraq, Tony ends up sleeping off-and-on with his friend's wife, Meg. But when they break up for good, Meg kills herself, and Tony ends up taking custody of her daughter, Sarah.
33. When Simon Brenner, an Australian, Was Somehow Dr. Anspaugh's Nephew
How is Anspaugh both young enough to have a pre-teen son and old enough to have a nephew who's in his 30s and is also Australian? The math doesn't add up!
34. When Pratt Was Killed By an Exploding Ambulance
In a tragic turn of events, Pratt dies due to complications after an ambulance he was in blew up.
Perhaps the best part about ER's wildest moments is that they're still just as impactful a decade after the show's finale.