ER is one of the most successful medical dramas in history, but whether it’s characters or format changed, how did the series change after it’s pilot?
The show ER followed multiple ER doctors throughout its fifteen seasons and examined the daily lives of its main characters on the medical staff at a Chicago ER, in both their personal and professional lives. The show, like most medical dramas, focused on medical cases and the ever-changing romantic relationships of its cast of characters.
The well-received show started off strong in its pilot, but it also changed several things after its pilot episode, including its character’s personalities, certain recurring themes, and its dramatic plotlines.
Dr. Benton’s Demeanor
Peter Benton has always been a stern character, but his demeanor is a little brighter in the first episode. He socializes with the other doctors more in the break room, makes jokes, and is actually pretty friendly overall.
This quickly changes after the pilot, as he becomes more strict, especially with his mentee and student John Carter (Noah Wyle), and loses all of the bedside manner he had in the pilot.
Carol Hathaway Is A Main Character
Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) hardly appears in the first episode of the series as one of the go-to nurses in the ER. She is brought into the hospital as a patient near the end of the episode after an apparent suicide attempt via overdosing on medication, and it was clear how important she is to the entire staff.
It wasn’t certain that Nurse Hathaway was going to survive the pilot episode, but she did, and became a main character throughout most of the series.
Division Between Characters Given Their Specialty
The pilot episode saw most of the main characters interact with each other no matter what their specialty in the medical field was.
After the pilot, the cast is divided more into their fields, except for medical student John Carter who interacts with the main characters as he’s doing rotations for school. Benton typically stays within the surgical field with little scenes between other doctors, especially pediatric doctor Ross (George Clooney).
Doctors Trying To Get Sleep On The Job
Most of the pilot centers on Dr. Mark Greene and sees him trying to desperately get sleep throughout the episode, when things are slow or the doctors are technically not on the clock yet.
It’s a big part of the episode meant to highlight how exhausting being an ER doctor is in real life, but after the pilot they show the exhaustion in different ways instead of constantly showing the doctors trying to sleep in the cots in the hospital.
The Flirting Patients
Almost every main character has a patient who tries to flirt with the doctors in the pilot episode. It’s pretty heavy-handed in the pilot and a little awkward to watch since the patients are in pain and yet have enough strength to try to ask their doctor out on a date.
This happens sporadically throughout the rest of the series, but it was constant in the first episode of the show.
Animosity Between Medical Fields
The doctors take issue with the nurses, and the surgical teams are frustrated by the medical doctors throughout the entirety of the pilot episode.
This theme does carry over into the rest of the show, but not as strongly as the first episode presents it. Dr. Benton constantly says how much he hates the medical side of things, as he calls them “pill pushers” and tries to tell the nurses they should be making coffee instead of the real doctors, clearly showing he thinks the surgical field is superior.
Disappearing Medical Students
The show mostly follows medical student John Carter, but when other medical students are introduced the show usually highlights them and follows the character for at least a few episodes.
The pilot introduces a medical student training with Dr. Ross, but she never appears again afterwards. Carter is the main medical student, and the show follows his career throughout its entirety, but it’s odd that the pilot tried to introduce a character and thought better of it by not having her return.
Seeing So Many Patients
The first episode shows the main characters treating several patients, which is true for the rest of the series, as typically multiple patients are shown throughout each episode, but the first episode showed so many patients that it hardly had time to build up the stories.
The later episodes would have multiple minor patients, but it also chose to focus on a few bigger cases that took up most of the doctor’s time. The pilot episode didn’t focus on any particular case and instead took a broader approach than the rest of the series would take.
The Level Of Drama Changes
Later seasons of ER were incredibly dramatic, and became increasingly so as the series went on, so the pilot is relatively tame compared to the rest of the show. The first episode does have multiple dramatic moments, but the show doesn’t revel in the drama.
The most dramatic moment is Carol’s suicide attempt and even then the show handles it with the weight and seriousness it calls for, while later episodes of the medical drama threw in dramatic scenes just for the shock of it all.
John Carter is arguably the main character of the entire series as the show follows his journey from medical student to an attending physician at the ER.
This change in personality is most likely because he becomes more comfortable around the people he works with as the seasons go on, but in the pilot, Carter is pretty quiet and mild-mannered, while in most of the show he’s outgoing, quirky, and personable.