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Long-running Medical Drama that redefined the genre. It was the first to show graphically realistic emergency procedures and reproduce the disorganised clutter of a real metropolitan hospital.

Set in Cook County General Hospital, the show followed an ever-changing, ethnically diverse cast of doctors, nurses, administrators and medical students as they deal with the day-to-day angst of saving lives. Their personal lives took a back seat to taut scenes of trying to help patients with their various physical and emotional emergencies. The main character arc was that of John Carter (Noah Wyle), who evolved throughout the course of the show from an uncertain medical student to the wise and infinitely capable chief resident.

Due to its long run (15 seasons) it had Loads and Loads of Characters.

Not to be confused with the 1984 sitcom E/R, which also took place in a Chicago hospital and also featured George Clooney.

Tropes used in ER include:
  • African Terrorists: The doctors of County General have faced both the Mai Mai in the Congo and the Janjaweed in Sudan while treating their victims.
  • And the Adventure Continues...: The series finale. Crosses over with Bookends as a Greene enters and leaves the hospital with Carter.
  • Anyone Can Die: Used in conjunction with Tonight Someone Dies. Memorable examples include Dr. Greene from brain cancer, Lucy Knight being stabbed to death, and Gallant in the teaser.
    • As well as series regulars/semi-regulars Greg Pratt from an explosion, Robert Romano from a helicopter, Carla Reese, Dennis Gant, Sandy Lopez.... And that's not even mentioning the various actors who guested more than once as the parents/grandparents of various characters - did any of them (other than Elizabeth's and Abby's mothers) survive the 16-year run?
  • Ascended Extra : Carol Hathaway, Jeanie Boulet, Kerry Weaver, Robert Romano, Archie Morris, Tony Gates.
    • This evolved into pretty much being their official means of auditioning new cast members in the last several years: Bring a bunch of new people on as recurring characters each season and keep the best ones.
    • Nurse Chuny (Laura Cerón) is a unique case: strictly speaking she never really "ascended", but only Noah Wyle and Laura Innes appeared in more episodes.
    • Notably, Carol was actually meant to succeed in her suicide attempt in the pilot, but Crichton and Wells were impressed with Juliana Margulies (as were test audiences, who were also intrigued at the hints of a past with Doug Ross) and kept her on.
  • Back to Front
  • Bait and Switch Tyrant : Kerry Weaver and Donand Anspaugh. In later seasons, we got Kevin Moretti and Catherine Bansfield.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Romano after he loses his arm in a helicopter accident.
  • Benevolent Boss: Dr. Morgenstern.
  • Berserk Button: Abused children, for Dr. Doug Ross. Which makes perfect sense, seeing as he was one. Even more Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize this is probably why he became a pediatrician in the first place.
  • Between My Legs: This shot is used when Abby is taking pictures of Neela.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In one episode, Luka recited part of Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy, and lapsed into Croatian after a few lines. Crosses over to Shout-Out also, as Goran Visnjic's biggest role up to that point had been a Croatian production of the play.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Not first considering this is ER, but two regular black male cast members eventually die on the show. One in The Teaser with a voice over.
  • Blood From the Mouth: Countless patients, including Pratt
  • Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: Just about every season.
  • Book Ends: Dr. Greene calls to Dr. Carter in the pilot; Carter calls to Dr. Greene (the original's daughter) in the finale.
    • Also in the pilot, Dr. Morgenstern tells Dr. Greene, "You set the tone, Mark. You get the unit through this", referring to Carol's suicide attempt. The departing Carter says the same to Dr. Morris.
    • Later in the pilot, Dr. Greene offers some words of encouragement to rookie med student Carter. Carter uses these exact same words with rookie med student Gallant.
  • Building of Adventure: The earlier series are set entirely within the hospital.
  • The Bus Came Back: Carter's 4 episode arc in season 12.
    • Susan Lewis returned as a regular in season 8, after a five-year absence.
    • And, of course, all the departed regulars from the original cast (including, via flashback, Greene) returned for guest appearances in the final season.
  • Carrying a Cake
  • Claustrophobia: Neela
  • Code Silver
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable As far as "clean" and "pretty" are concerned, typically played straight. In terms of "reliable", usually somewhat averted, as virtually all patients who are in cardiac arrest require defibrillation, and most require ACLS drugs. And of course, many patients don't make it.
    • Totally averted in one episode where John Carter is vomited on when he tries to give CPR to an overdosing medical student.
    • Dr. Carter also breaks an elderly man's rib once during CPR while awaiting a defibrillation.
    • Also completely averted in second season episode "Hell and High Water" when Doug Ross spends about half an hour doing CPR unsuccessfully on a young, hypothermic drowning victim. It ultimately takes a bypass machine to revive him.
    • Completely and utterly deconstructed in the sixth season episode "All In The Family" when Dr. Romano cracks Lucy Knight's chest open to attempt internal heart massage while she is dying of a pulmonary embolism. He is unsuccessful.
  • Creepy Cockroach: One episode has a woman who gets a small cockroach removed from her ear. She immediately freaks out and stomps on it.
  • Crossover (with Third Watch)
  • Democracy Is Flawed: Luka Kovac expresses a belief similar to this to John Carter in the first episode of the "Doctors Without Borders" arc.
  • Demoted to Extra : Kerry Weaver
  • Development Hell: The Pilot was written in 1974 and filmed 20 years later
  • Dropped A Helicopter On Him
  • The Documentary
  • Dr. Jerk: A few doctors like these come and go, especially Dr. Romano. Dr. Morris flirts with this trope, before becoming a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Dysfunction Junction - Most of the ER staff are this. Abby's father left her when she was very young and her mother and brother have bipolar disorder. Same thing with Pratt's father, though we find out that he tried to get back with Pratt's mother, but she never answered his letters. Sam had come from a family of alcoholics. Carter's relationship with his parents was never that great and his grandfather resented him for choosing a career as a doctor. Ross' father was abusive and ultimately abandoned him and his mother. Subverted with Mark Greene: He had spent most of an episode resenting his father for ... it's not clear (having a dominating personality?), when Doug Ross (who really DID have an abusive/neglectful father) angrily told him to "get your head out of your ass!" Greene eventually admitted to his daughter that he didn't even remember why their relationship was so bad, only saying that it was "probably my fault."
  • Everybody Is Single
  • Excuse Me, Coming Through: Done with a runaway bottle of compressed air.
  • Expy: Dr. Julia Wise isn't Rory Gilmore, she just acts exactly like her and happens to be played by the same actress.
  • Fake Guest Star: Leland Orser as Dr. Dubenko.
    • Laura Ceron (Chuny) and Deezer D (Malik) appeared in more episodes than anyone other than Noah Wyle and Laura Innes...all with guest star billing.
  • Fan Service: Abby's nurse costume in one of the Halloween episodes was definitely not a regulation nurse's outfit. There have been other examples, too.
    • ER desk clerk Randi Fronczak's outfits in general. See also Cynthia Hooper (Mariska Hargitay) turning up in the doctor's lounge in nothing but lingerie and a trench coat to seduce Mark Greene.
    • Naked Finnish air hostess, fresh from the shower, to greet Greene and Ross upon arriving at Ross' apartment in "Do One, Teach One, Kill One."

  "You know, the Finns are remarkably un-self conscious." Dr. Doug Ross

  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Kerry. Despite her disability, she is consistently depicted as an uber-competent doctor. In fact, her abrasive personality (rather than warm and fuzzy) might even make this a subversion.
  • Grumpy Bear: Peter Benton. Occasionally, Mark Greene.
  • Halfway Plot Switch
  • Hellish Copter: A helicopter crashes down in the Hospital's courtyard and kills Dr. Romano, who was in said courtyard specifically because he wanted to avoid it after having his arm chopped off by one earlier in the season.
  • High-Pressure Blood: On numerous occasions.
  • Hopeless Suitor: For a while, Ray Barnett for Neela. It Gets Worse but then better towards the series finale.
    • Also, Romano for Corday.
  • Hospital Paradiso
  • Hot Dad: Luka.
  • Hot Mom: Quite a few characters. Carol, Sam, Abby, Elizabeth.
  • Innocent Cohabitation: Ray and Neela.
  • Instant Sedation: Both averted and played straight.
  • The Intern
  • It's Personal
  • Jerkass: Dr. Romano. Most of the other characters who have behaved like jerks have later gone on to be examples of Jerk with a Heart of Gold instead.
    • Including Romano. There are numerous episodes which show him as being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold - All in the Family springs to mind. He ultimately reverted to full Jerkass status, but quite justifiably so; if one's specialty in one's career of choice required the effective use of both hands, it's not unexpected for an already abrasive personality to take a drastic turn for the worse after the loss of an arm.
    • Carter started out as an idealistic young med student, then went through a period of jerkassery in the second season, mainly in imitation of the cutthroat surgeons (*cough* Benton! *cough*) he was working alongside then. By the third season he had mostly gotten it out of his system, thank goodness, although in the last few seasons he reverted a bit.
      • And then came back in the last season as almost saintly.
    • Surgical intern/resident Dale Edson (Season 2 and 3).
  • Karma Houdini: Definitely Jen Greene, arguably Mark in season 7 and Sam in season 13.
  • Last Episode Theme Reprise: After dropping it for the past several seasons, the original theme song was played over the beginning and end of the final episode.
  • Lethal Diagnosis
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities
  • Live Episode: "Ambush"
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Lonely Funeral: Dr. Corday is the only one to attend Dr. Romano's memorial service.
  • Lovable Traitor: Kerry will knife anyone in the back in the name of "hospital policy" and yet we still feel sorry for her when she doesn't get what she wants. Occasionally used seriously with Doug, whose loyalty to children above everything and everyone else is both his greatest strength and greatest weakness.
  • Magical Defibrillator: Defibrillators are actually generally portrayed accurately on this show. There was maybe one exception, and it was mentioned that they were desperate and trying everything they could at that time.
  • Mama Bear: Don't mess with Alex or else Sam will come after you.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Benton's generation of random Christmas miracles wherever he goes in "Do You See What I See?"
    • Two seasons earlier, the mysterious toymaker who vanishes while Carol is treating him.
  • Meaningful Echo/Passing the Torch: "You set the tone" was a commonly repeated phrase in the series.
    • It was first told to Dr. Greene by Dr. Morgenstern in the pilot.
    • When Dr. Greene is leaving County to die from his tumor his last words to John Carter was this phrase.
    • When Carter was leaving he told this to Morris. Though it did take Morris a few years to be ready to set it, he would become one of the best doctors in the hospital.
  • Monster Clown: Dr. Malucci has some unresolved fear of Clowns.
  • Naive Newcomer: The med students were almost always this.
  • Nipple-and-Dimed: During one scene a woman's bare breasts were visible as a realistic representation of what doctors have to do (e.g. cut someone's shirt off) during emergency medical treatment. The woman was elderly to minimize the risk that it would be perceived as titillating. There were plans to do this again, but then that Janet Jackson thing happened and they were shelved.
  • One of Our Own: Frequently. Hospital staff, cops, and paramedics get preferential treatment, which is Truth in Television in real-life emergency departments.
    • Lampshaded in "All in the Family" when Benton operates on Carter after his stabbing. Benton is so distraught at Carter's condition that he nearly removes a salvageable kidney and has to be talked down by a senior surgeon. Meanwhile, Romano insists on trying to revive Lucy, whereas with a patient he had no connection to, he would have been objective enough to acknowledge that she was gone.
    • When treating his infant daughter for a drug overdose, Greene hesitates to do everything that he knows deep down is medically necessary, to the point where Kerry gently, but firmly takes over the case, pointing out that had this been anyone else's child, he would have intubated her immediately, but is reluctant to cause such discomfort to his own.
  • Papa Wolf: Quite a few doctors fit this to their patients. Kovac is one of the most prominent ones
  • Pet the Dog: Bunches, but most notably with Dr. Romano signing to Reese Benton.
    • Also quite literally, with Romano's dog coming to the OR for a procedure.

  "Perhaps if you showed the same compassion towards people as you do towards animals..." (death glare)

      • A dog randomly hit in the hospital parking lot gets mouth-to-mouth from Carter in the first season.
    • Also happens pretty much every time Romano and Corday are on screen together. Corday may have been his only friend, but by damn, she was a good one.
  • Precision F-Strike: In Mark Greene's final episode his body was really failing and he collapsed to the floor. Frustrated and not wanting his family to see, he screamed "Shit!" (on network TV).
  • Prom Baby: Sam explains this to be the case with her son.
  • Pronoun Trouble: Another sign of Dr. Greene's brain tumor is when he starts mixing up "he" and "she" in mid-tirade.
  • Put on a Bus: Several characters. The most upsetting, perhaps, is Ray Barnett (played by Shane West), who is first HIT with a bus and then put on one for a couple seasons. For all its cruelty, at least he gets the girl in the end.
  • Race For Your Love:
    • At least two notable aversions:
      • Doug rushes to Carol's engagement party to tell her he loves her. . .she screams at him to leave her alone, and her fiance punches him.
      • Mark runs to the train station to catch the departing Susan, only to have her gently rebuff him and leave anyway.
    • Played straight:
      • Carter buying a $9,000 plane ticket to Japan so that he can get past security and get to the gate to give one last kiss to his departing girlfriend Kem.
      • Carter again racing through the streets of Paris to get to Kem's place and declare his love for her.
      • The best example is of Carol rushing to catch a plane to Seattle in the hopes that it's not too late to reconcile with Doug.
  • Redemption in the Rain
  • Refuge in Audacity: Dr. Romano and his poor track record with helicopters.
    • A in-universe example: The crew cures a homeless girl who turns out to be on the run from a Cure Your Gays-institution. A person from the facility shows up to take her back, but Carter refuses to release her... by claiming that she is pregnant.
  • The Reveal
    • In "Night Shift," a patient who is badly mangled after jumping (or falling) onto the tracks in front of an elevated train is rolled into a trauma room. Dr. Benton tells a nurse to page Benton's then-favorite medical student Dennis Gant, and everyone is horrified when the patient's beeper goes off—it's Gant on the table!
    • When Greene discovers his wife is having an affair.
    • When Kerry discovers Carter and Lucy Knight bleeding to death on the floor of a patient's room.
  • Revolving Door Casting
  • Say Your Prayers: Kovacks did this in one episode while in the Congo, but winds up living through it.
    • It's actually a bit of a subversion since the praying saves him. The rebels holding him think he's is a priest and shooting priests is the one thing they won't do.
  • Self -Harm: In one episode, a self-injurer is treated at the clinic.
  • Scary Surprise Party: a Running Gag where the staff would trick a co-worker into thinking they were needed for a medical emergency, only to happen upon their surprise birthday party/welcome back party/going away party/bridal shower/baby shower.
  • Secretly Wealthy: Everyone was stunned when Carter was revealed to be from a wealthy family.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Played straight plenty of times and subverted with Ray and Neela. Neela wears Ray's shirt to bed because it's comfortable, not because they're sleeping together. This is later important because the two develop feelings for each other and she offers it back when she moves out.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Luka lost his wife and children in the Yugoslav wars. Quite a lot of his behaviour can be attributed to Heroic BSOD.
  • Shout-Out: In the final episode, a patient stated that "I am the Chosen One, I am Lugia."
  • Ship Tease: Tons, but none more merciless than Ray and Neela.
  • Shirtless Scene: Plenty.
  • Star-Making Role: For George Clooney.
    • This was true for most of the original main cast (though none of them reached the heights Clooney has). Anthony Edwards was the exception; he was fairly well-known before the show even though he became the major star for several years.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: All original cast members are now long gone.
    • Except for Carter, one of the only characters to be in every season (even if he's only mentioned in passing.) The others being minor characters that never receive main cast billing.
  • There Is a God
  • Tonight Someone Dies
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: At least once a season.
  • Walk and Talk
  • Wall Glower
  • Welcome Episode
  • Welcome to Hell: In "Doctor Carter, I Presume?"
  • Wham! Episode
  • What the Hell, Hero?: As fate would have it, the psychopathic abusive father that went on a killing spree targeting Dr. Greene's family landed in County General, having been shot by the cops. Dr. Greene personally puts takes him up to surgery. When he codes in the elevator, Greene uses the defibrillator and shocks the air in the killer's plain view. You can see the panic in his eyes as he slowly dies.
  • The Windy City: Although filmed in California, the show shot exterior scenes in Chicago (the show's setting) pretty often.
  • Worst Aid: Typically averted, though some of the CPR scenes practically qualify as Narm.
    • Most of the erroneous CPR was justified: performing completely realistic-looking CPR on an actor could be dangerous. The trope still applies to the more Egregious examples, though.
    • A good example of a complete aversion came in the 6th season finale when, at the scene of a mass shooting, Dr. Kovac told a police officer to stop giving CPR to somebody whose brains were splattered all over the concrete.
  • Write Who You Know: Someone writes a torrid soap-opera romance novella set in an emergency room and featuring characters that are all romanticized (or in Weaver's case, vilified) versions of the ER staff.