It is not hyperbolic to say that “ER” was a game-changer when it premiered 25 years ago. And the best part is, no one really saw it coming. CBS’ much-hyped and also Chicago-set “Chicago Hope” was predicted to win the Great Medical Drama War of the 1994-95 season.
And then NBC unleashed its two-hour “ER” pilot on Monday, Sept. 19, 1994, and an instant hit was born (the show moved to its Thursdays-at-10 slot three days later, where it aired for the remainder of its 15-season, 331-episode run). No one had seen a hospital show like “ER” before, with its addictive blend of groundbreaking, propulsive filmmaking — its innovative Steadicam long takes have since been adopted by numerous shows — accelerated pace and thoughtful storytelling that conveyed a riveting sense of medical realism that is still unmatched. It also made overnight stars out of its original cast, Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Sherry Stringfield, Noah Wyle, Julianna Margulies and Eriq La Salle.
Currently streaming on Hulu, “ER” — which amassed 124 Emmy nominations 23 wins, including Best Drama Series in 1996 — was also one of the rare shows whose quality matched its popularity; at a time when everyone watched their favorite shows live, it pulled in 30 million viewers on the regular during its first six seasons. Earlier this year, “ER” lost its title as primetime’s longest-running medical drama to “Grey’s Anatomy,” but there’s no eclipsing its legacy and impact. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, our photo gallery above ranks the show’s 25 top episodes from worst to best — and yes, there are some tearjerkers in here, so keep some tissues nearby.
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