The hospital drama “ER” first massaged our hearts on Sept. 19, 1994. Use the date to mark your own chart. For me, it was roughly one year before I moved to San Diego. If I feel like I've lived here nearly forever, that means "ER" is older than nearly forever. But now it's time to pull the plug, especially to a nearly asphyxiating, hype-marketed farewell season, which also feels like it's lasted longer than nearly forever.
In the fall of '94, NBC's Must-See TV lineup was "Friends," "The Single Guy," "Seinfeld," "Caroline in the City" and "ER." Since the 1980s, dozens of sitcoms have filled the Thursday from 8-10 p.m. time slots, while just three one-hour dramas have occupied the 10 o’clock spot: "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law" and 15 mostly good, often great seasons of "ER."
Tonight, the old-timer will finally be put down. I was a huge fan when it was still creator Michael Crichton's baby. Remember, Steven Spielberg was in on the early action. The show mixed pathos and humor amid those quick, cutting-edge camera shots. "ER" set the stage for TV doctors using a medical lexicon that included such terms as "deep-vein thrombosis" and "subdural hematoma." (You’re welcome, "House.")
When George Clooney and other original cast members appeared on an episode last month, I mistakenly thought that was it. Nope. Tonight is the very last, very special closing episode. Seriously. No fooling. This is not a leftover April Fool's joke. After an "ER" retrospective special, the absolute final, c'est finis, ain't-no-more, that's-it-we're-done, angst-depleted episode will go on for the last time.
The show was a labor of love, but its demise has been laborious. Thanks, docs. Now, call it.
Ron Donoho, formerly executive editor of "San Diego Magazine," is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com who covers local news, sports, culture and happy hours.