Stay Tuned
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Friday, March 13, 2009

Clooney's "ER" Return: Like He Never Left

If you missed it, yes, George Clooney did return to “ER” last night (Note to NBC: If you really wanted to keep this secret, you shouldn’t have pulled a “24” and put his name so prominently in the credits.). But in my opinion, he had the episode stolen right out from under him by none other than Eriq La Salle, who didn’t get nearly as much attention for his return as Dr. Peter Benton…

When last we saw Clooney’s Dr. Doug Ross, he had reunited with the mother of his children, nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Marguiles), in Seattle where he had taken another job. And that’s exactly where we found him last night, as an attending physician at a Seattle hospital. Carol, now his wife, appeared to be some sort of patient advocate.

The couple was working with a woman (Susan Sarandon) struggling with the decision of when to end life support for her grandson. The decision carried extra importance because several people from hospitals around the country were waiting for organs from the young man, including Neela and Sam (Parminder Nagra and Linda Cardellini) from County, who were waiting on a heart. But the story took an even more interesting turn as Neela and Sam also ended up waiting for a kidney for Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle).

Although Clooney’s return was an actual story that made sense, at times it seemed a little unnecessary. Sarandon seemed almost wasted, as her character didn’t carry nearly the emotional weight that Angela Bassett’s (Dr. Banfield) or even John Stamos’ (Dr. Gates) did back in the County ER.

But honestly, does that matter?

This was about one of the biggest stars on the planet respecting his fans and returning to the place where it all began. He could have just showed up and read the phonebook and it would have been great to see.

But thankfully, we got to see the old Doug Ross back in action. The one that seemed to always care just a little too much about his patients. The one that could soothe people’s grief with just one look from those beautiful eyes. And also thankfully, he brought the love of his life with him so we could see that they are still just as happy as they were the last time we saw them.

One of his best scenes last night was when Doug tried to reminisce with Neela and Sam, but everyone he knew from County was gone—which made both of us shake our heads. I guess I didn’t realize just how long Clooney’s been away. And quite honestly, last night felt like he had never left.

Clooney deserves all the credit in the world for doing this. And Marguiles deserves credit as well for holding out for Clooney before returning herself. It really couldn’t have been any other way…

But last night was a very special episode for “ER” fans as they got the reunion of another duo from the show’s early days—Dr. Carter and his mentor, Dr. Benton. Benton was working at Northwestern, where Carter was awaiting his kidney transplant. Known for being one of the show’s biggest jerks, Benton showed real concern for Carter as he observed the surgery—even catching a life threatening mistake by the brash Benton-like surgeon (a well cast Christian Clemenson, who’s best known as Jerry on “Boston Legal”). Benton actually became the spotlight of the show, as he convinced Carter not to give up on his happiness.

The only thing that would have made that story better would have been for Doug and Carol to learn that “some doctor in Chicago” they helped save was actually Carter…

As I was watching last night, I couldn’t help but think it was a shame that I stopped watching so many years ago because the current cast is a good one. Bassett combines Weaver and Romano’s toughness with Green’s compassion and Stamos is the best replacement for Clooney the show has ever had.

But alas, there are only three episodes left now. However, the return of favorites is not yet over.

In fact, if what I’ve heard about a certain returnee for the finale is true, you will not want to miss it. And you’ll definitely want to have your tissues ready…

“ER” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC. You can see last night’s episode here.