Lights Out for “ER.” Really

 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 who covers local news, sports, culture and happy hours.

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