Who’s your favourite ER character of all time?

by Lynn Connolly

With season 15 of ER being the last one, we thought we’d take a look at some of the best already departed characters in the show and find out who’s been the crème de la crème of ex-ER staff.

There are a lot of contenders too so let’s break it down into who I reckon are the top three male and top three female characters…

Batting for the girls, and my number one choice, has to be Abby Lockhart – played by Maura Tierney – troubled nurse turned doctor. She’s been a strong presence since her arrival in the show in season 6 in the episode “Great Expectations” in which she guest starred as Carol Hathaway’s labour and delivery nurse…

Her back-story was that she was a former medical student but Abby quit medical school one year before graduating, choosing instead to pursue a nursing career in the ER. Three months later, Abby became a regular character as a third-year medical student beginning her ER rotation.

She’s had a lot of ups and downs including a bitter divorce from her first husband, her battle with alcoholism, her bi-polar mother and brother not to mention complicated love affairs with John Carter and Luka and a one night stand with brief character, Kevin Moretti.

Abby also had to deal with lots of nutty patients, many of whom were dangerous and she’s been held hostage, shot at, beaten, blown up and risked her life many times to save her patients. So here’s a montage of Abby’s best bits…

Next up in my book would be Carol Hathaway – Julianna Margulies – who was a nurse in the show. In the pilot episode, Carol was rushed into the ER after a suspected suicide attempt using an overdose of barbiturates. Here’s a clip of that emotional scene…

Although she later denied it, the staff suspected that her suicide attempt was brought on by her failed romance with the gorgeous but philandering Doug Ross. In season 3, Carol considered starting medical school but decided against it. Then in season 4, Carol arranged funding for the ER clinic which was to treat the poorest members of society, getting the money from Dr. John Carter’s grandmother, Millicent Carter.

By the time season 5 rolled around, Carol and Doug were trying for a baby when Doug suddenly left Chicago. He was strongly advised to relocate after allegedly teaching a mother how to bypass an automatic pain-medication device and deliver a lethal dose to her terminally-ill child. Unbeknownst to Doug, Carol was by then pregnant.

Carol later had twins Tess and Kate on Thanksgiving in season 6. When Doug learned of the twins’ birth, he begged Carol to go and live with him in Seattle, but Carol was torn between her love of her job and friends and a future with Doug. At first, she decided not to go and soon after, she briefly dated Luka. However, treating a woman dying of end-stage ovarian cancer and helping her family say goodbye made Carol decide to reunite her own family, and she abruptly left the ER and flew to Seattle that day to be with Doug.

My final pick of top ER girls is Dr Kerry Weaver who was played by Laura Innes. She was a harda** with a lot of ‘baggage’ as the Americans are fond of saying! Kerry first appeared as a recurring character actor in season 2 and became a regular cast member in season 3. In January 2007, Laura left the show after twelve years of playing Kerry Weaver who’d left the ER and moved to Florida.

For most of the time Kerry was in the ER, she was seen as cold, abrasive and unbending when it came to the rules. Weaver always walked with a stick too, the reason for which was not disclosed until just before she left the show when we learned she had a congenital hip defect that was later corrected with surgery.

One of the reasons the show’s writers had to correct Kerry’s trademark limp was because it was causing real life back and hip problems for Laura as she spent so much time feigning the limp!

Kerry’s sexuality was something of a question mark for a long time too and it wasn’t until she began a relationship with a female psychiatrist – Kim Legaspi – that we knew for sure she was gay. That relationship was doomed to fail though when Kim resented the fact that Kerry wouldn’t openly admit they were together.

Later however, the first coworker Weaver ‘came out’ to was the bigoted Dr. Robert Romano who was planning to fire Legaspi over false allegations that she sexually harassed a female patient. Weaver’s confession to save her colleague’s career kept Romano from firing Legaspi but left Kerry fearing that Romano would use the information against her.

Kerry’s next love interest was firewoman Sandy Lopez with whom she had a child, Henry. Sandy carried the baby so of course, biologically, Henry was nothing to do with Kerry so when Sandy tragically died, her family fought for custody of Henry. This was eventually resolved when the Lopez’s agreed to Kerry having primary custody if they were allowed to take care of Henry while she was at work.

Kerry finally left the ER to host her own TV show in Miami. Here’s her final scene…

Now for the males and there are again so many to choose from, but my top three are Mark Greene, Doug Ross and Robert Romano.

In the pilot episode, Dr. Greene – Anthony Edwards – was introduced as the chief resident of the ER. He was married to trainee lawyer Jenn however, during the first season, their marriage became increasingly unstable. As their careers forced them to be apart much of the time, Jenn began an affair with a coworker and her marriage to Mark ended soon afterwards.

The next big trauma for him came when he was attacked in the ER men’s room in the episode “Random Acts,” Initially the attack was believed to be a retaliatory act to avenge the death of a patient who the attacker claimed had been mistreated by Mark because of the patient’s race. Later on though, it turned out that his assailant was a psychotic person who was randomly attacking doctors.

After that, Mark bought a gun and once used it to scare away a crowd of “punks” on a train, but decided to throw the gun in the river soon afterwards. He eventually came to terms with the attack in season 5 when he helped Nigerian-born janitor Mobalage to talk about his memories of torture in his home country and by helping him to obtain political asylum and avoid deportation.

Mark then met British surgeon Elizabeth Corday who went on to become his second wife and mother to his second daughter, Ella. Everything was going well for them until the abusive father of a patient went on a killing rampage after losing his son to social services. In a bid to get his son back, he killed and injured a number of people and threatened to kill Elizabeth and baby Ella. After being shot by police, the gunman was brought to the ER and during his treatment, he was transferred by Mark to the operating room when he arrested. Alone in the elevator with him, Mark decided to withhold treatment and let him to die.

Mark then began having medical problems and was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumour. Given little time to live, Mark sought a second opinion from New York City neurosurgeon and after surgery, Mark progressed well until a year later, the tumour returned.

On discovering it was now inoperable, he left the ER, stopped his chemotherapy and took his eldest daughter Rachel trip to Hawaii. One night, Rachel went to Mark’s room and when he awoke, Rachel told him that she’d remembered a lullaby he used to sing her when she was a baby and slipped a pair of headphones on his head for him to listen to Israel Kamakawiwo`ole’s rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” as he fell back to sleep.

While the song played, Mark was seen walking through an empty ER and reliving moments with his loved ones. The next morning, Elizabeth discovered that he’d passed away. It was a real tearjerker of a moment; here it is…

So onto heartthrob Doug Ross played of course by George Clooney. As a pediatrician, Doug dealt primarily with children obviously but he did sometimes jump in to save the day with sick adults too. His love for kids was best seen during ‘darker’ situations, such as when a child was in danger.

Doug didn’t handle authority well and frequently bent the rules. In one episode, he tried to do an ultra-rapid detox on a drug-addicted baby without the mother’s consent. This procedure was assisted by Carol, but when Greene and Weaver discovered what they’d done, Doug was put on probation for 30 days, and had to be supervised by Kerry Weaver and Mark Greene. Doug’s attitude towards patients often had consequences for his coworkers and supervisors, who received reprimands for Doug’s actions.

Doug was also a womaniser who dated – and dumped – many women throughout the course of the show. In the first season, it was mentioned that Doug had an eight-year-old son whom he’d never met, but nothing further was ever revealed about him.

Doug’s womanising days came to an abrupt end though when he had a one night stand with an epileptic woman who hid her condition from him and ended up in the ER. She promptly died there, after which Doug remained single until he got back together with Carol.

As mentioned earlier, Doug eventually resigned in the aftermath of the scandal over overdosing a terminally child. The incident also prompted the closure of Carol’s free clinic since it had supplied the PCA to the mother. It was a desperate moment for women everywhere when Doug finally left the show. Here’s a clip of the superdoc in action…

And finally, the awesome character of Robert Romano was one of my favourites. Played by Paul McCrane, Romano’s sharp tongue, merciless sarcasm, bigotry, racism and intolerance of failure made him a feared and disliked man in the hospital.

He first appeared in season 4 as Elizabeth Corday’s mentor and he tortured her verbally and professionally whenever he could. Over the next four years, Romano made many enemies, one of which was Dr Peter Benton who he fired and blacklisted making it virtually impossible for Benton to work anywhere in Chicago. They later reconciled however and Benton went on to have a great career as a surgeon.

At the beginning of the ninth season, Dr. Romano lost his left arm when he backed into the tail rotor blades of a helicopter that had landed at the hospital. Here’s a clip of that moment but be warned, it’s pretty graphic!

Dr. Kovač was able to save Romano’s life and surgeons were able to reattach Romano’s arm. Despite limitations in his recovery, Romano performed unauthorised procedures in surgery that he was not physically able to handle. This reckless behavior led to him being demoted.

Dr. Romano then became even more hostile and bitter and he routinely insulted and took out his frustrations on the entire staff, making him almost impossible to work with. As his arrogance and self-destructive attitude continued, he managed to get himself beaten up in a bar after complaining about a ‘strong man’ show and calling it “homoerotic.”

Romano died midway through season 10 in the episode “Freefall” on Thanksgiving Day. When a wealthy patient left his Rolex in a trauma room, Romano told Neela Rasgotra to go up to the helipad and return it before the patient flew out.

However, Neela was relatively new to the ER and didn’t know how to get up there so Romano took it upon himself to escort her to the rooftop. Once there, he saw a helicopter for the first time since his accident and a panic attack sent him fleeing into the ambulance bay for air while high above the ER, the helicopter was suddenly buffeted by strong winds and began listing above the roof of the hospital.

After injuring a nurse and nearly killing Neela, the chopper fell off the rooftop and exploded. Dr. Romano noticed fire and debris raining down and screamed as he looked up and saw the flaming chopper plummeting down towards him. The twisted metal crashed onto Romano, killing him instantly and causing a huge explosion in the ambulance bay.

Just moments before, Romano had “fired” Pratt and caught Morris smoking pot, but his death let Morris off the hook and Dr. Anspaugh told Pratt – not knowing Romano was dead – that Romano’s allegations were without merit and he too was off the hook.

I know we’ve already had one Romano scene but this is well worth seeing again… the special effects are amazing.

In the following weeks, a small memorial of flowers was placed at the scene of the crash but no one bar Elizabeth Corday mourned for Romano. Well, her and me anyway! I loved his acerbic wit and cutting one liners. I can’t wait for him to make a guest appearance as this season draws to a close.

So who’s been your favourite ER gal or guy? Let us know!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.