By Jan Shure
May 18, 2009
In a little over a week, on May 28, the 22nd episode of the 15th and final series of the hugely successful hospital drama, ER, goes out on Channel 4.
Having been a devoted fan since the third series in 1996/7, I have watched a succession of medics and ancillary staff at County General in Chicago save a thousand lives. I have watched, horrified but hugely entertained as they have seized crash carts to restart hearts, as they fell in and out of love, as they fell ill, raved, roared, romanced, flirted, called the time of death, committed suicide and lost children. I flinched as they were kidnapped, shot at by marauding Congo militias and marauding Chicago gangbangers, were abducted, had burning aircraft fall on them, fell out of the sky or had a limb ripped off by helicopter rotor blades... The 15 years have seen some pretty extreme, but utterly riveting TV, acted by an extraordinarily talented ensemble cast whose most famous former member is George Clooney.
If, like me, you have been a faithful fan, perhaps you can answer a question that has been bothering me since it popped into my head last week when I was watching The One Where George Clooney and Juliana Margulies Guest Star...
Why has there never been a Jewish doctor, or even a Jewish nurse on ER?
I might not be asking this question if the series was about firemen or roof-thatchers or welders. But it is about doctors, for goodness sake and nurses (one of them - the distinctly Waspy sound Carold Hathaway is even played by the Jewish Juliana Margulies). Even some of the US's best cop shows have had Jewish policemen, and LA Law and Boston Legal have had Jewish lawyers, reflecting the reality that lots of Jews enter the legal profession - just as they enter the medical profession. There have been Jewish patients, and in one storyline Archie Morris even had to briefly pretend to be Jewish, but somehow, ER's tally for Jewish medics in the Emergency Room at County General remains zero.
Add to that, the fact that the series was set in Chicago (which in the real world has a Jewish population of 270,100), and it begins to look even odder that there has never been a Jewish doctor. It isn't as if they didn't think about the ethnic mix in their choice of characters: there have been African-Americans, Hispanics, Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Chinese-Americans, the fabulous Parminder Nagra as an Anglo-Indian, an Aussie, a Croat, and the odd Wasp. But not one Jewish doctor.
The one Jewish character on staff in the ER is desk clerk, Jerry Markovic, who has returned after an absence of several series to appear in the final episodes. He is played by Abraham Benrubi. Based on the fact that ER has been produced throughout its run by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, I have come to the conclusion that the judenrein emergency room of ER is not antisemitism but irony... Think about it: not a single Jewish doctor, surgeon or intern in the entire 15-year run of a series set in a Chicago hospital - but a Jewish desk clerk