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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 1023 minutes
• Outpatient Outtakes: deleted scenes
Season 11 of the long-running, hit doctor series.
Noah Wylie, Laura Innes, Maura Tierney, Goran Visjnic, Mekhi Phifer, Shane West, Ming-Na, Alex Kingston, Sherry Stringfield, Parminder Nagra, Linda Cardellini.
ER had been running at a high level and was a consistent performer in the ratings year in and year out, even into its eleventh season. Through several cast changes and producer changes, the show always provided gripping drama and good characterization. This was the final season for stars Alex Kingston, Ming-Na and Noah Wylie, who was the last-remaining member of the original cast.
“Okay, stand by, I’m going to do my best George Clooney moment here…”
Looking at any season of ER is going to provide enough exposition to practically fill a book. This 11th season was no different as it featured memorable guest performances and continued the ever-evolving stories of the cast, some who had been with the show for nearly a decade. ER had had numerous cast turnarounds, and the most dramatic exit this year was that of Noah Wylie, who had portrayed Dr. John Carter, the character through whose eyes creator Michael Crichton envisioned the stories of ER to be seen. Wylie had been with the show since the first episode and had ascended to the anchor position of the cast. Joining him out the door were Alex Kingston, who portrayed Dr. Abby Corday for eight seasons, and Ming-Na, who played Dr. Jing-Mei Chen for six seasons. But in the casting carousel, Shane West appeared as Dr. Ray Barnett to begin his three-season stint on the show.
“So, Maura, I’m almost off the show here…”
“Any chance you could get me on Parenthood?”
“Would you even want to?”
Storylines that spanned or continued into this season included Abby beginning her career in earnest as a full-fledged doctor; Sam (Cardellini) and Luka (Visjnic) continuing their turbulent relationship and Sam running off with her son, Alex, after her abusive ex settled into town. Also, Neela (Nagra) struggled with employment issues following a botched internship at the University of Michigan. Chen had to deal with juggling her job and the burden of caring for her dying father. Lewis hoped for a tenure position that ultimately went to Carter. Weaver discovered her birth mother, and Carter mde his exit at the end of the season to reunite with his African lover, Kem (Thandie Newton).
Needless to say, the President’s Day sweeps episode didn’t play very well…
The season opened to resolve a cliffhanger where Drs. Pratt and Chen and a patient named Elgin had crashed into the Chicago River after their car had been hit by gunfire; and also saw Dr. Barnett enter the show (“One for The Road”). “An Intern’s Guide To The Galaxy” saw Neela return to the ER and Pratt cracking the whip on the residents and Ray making a mistake about donating a patient’s organs without the family’s consent. “A Shot In The Dark” saw Ray, Lewis and Neela treating a police office shot in the line of duty and having to force the cop’s 15-year-old son make the choice on his course of treatment. Also, Carter and the new social worker, Wendall Meade have their first date.
“So does Scooby really eat that many Scooby Snacks?”
“For the millionth time, the fucking dog wasn’t real.”
“Oh….so did he and Shaggy really smoke that much weed?”
“Twas The Night” was the final episode for Chen as she struggled to find someone to cover her shift because she planned to euthanize her dying father, and Abby received a patient on dialysis in critical condition but couldn’t reach his doctor. “Here and There” was an Iraq-themed episode where recurring character and former regular Michael Gallant (Sharif Atkins) tries to help a girl wounded in a car bombing get to the United States for treatment and enlists Neela for help. “Ruby Redux” was a follow-up to a story ten years prior where Carter treated the dying wife of current patient Jules Roubadoux, who accuses Carter of killing her.
“So, you’re dating Evan Rachel Wood, right?”
“Wasn’t she your sister on Once & Again?”
“Yeah. You wanna be my sister too?”
“That’s…that’s…well I never thought about it like that…”
Possibly the most memorable episode of the season was a Sweeps installment titled “Time of Death,” which featured guest star Ray Liotta’s Charlie Metcalfe, who was a dying alcoholic in his final minutes. That was the only storyline of the episode and was told in real time. Carter made his exit via the two-parter, “Carter est Amoroux” and “The Show Must Go On”, where he flies to Paris to be with former lover, Kem, after hearing her mother is sick, and then decides to go back with her to Africa to be with her.
Season 11 was the last one that I followed the show that I was with since the beginning. ER was consistently good, but with the departure of Wylie, the last original tie to the show’s salad years was now gone and it seemed a good time to move on. But the show was consistently good and makes for a great watch.
“Okay so, Omar Epps down an elevator shaft…Sharif Atkins and a roadside bomb…shit, things aren’t going to end well for me are they…?”
Episodes look fine, as ER had been presented in widescreen for a while, which only added to the appeal of the show. Audio is suitably good also. Only specials though are Outpatient Outtakes deleted scenes on various episodes, which kind of sucks if you’re looking for further insights via commentary by the producers or stars.