If it were now to die,

The West Wing cast, series 1. NBC/Warner Bros/Channel 4

‘Twere now to be most happy.

Oh god, I don’t really mean that. It’s just that it’s been a good day, what with it being my birthday ‘n all and getting some lovely presents, some of which I bought for myself.

Including, finally, a box set of the complete series of The West Wing! One of my fave all time US series of ALL TIME! It’s something I’ve coveted for years, since whenever the rubbish scheduling got too complicated on Channel 4/E4/More4 and I literally lost the plot before the last and seventh series. So tonight I’m starting again from scratch. Just 112 hours to go and I still don’t know whether the Hispanic guy gets elected to succeed Josiah Bartlett.

And speaking of top US drama, I must note in passing the last ever episode of ER which aired on More4 last Thursday. What an anti-climax, as at least one other committed fan has also said to me. We both had the tissues all lined up and didn’t need a single one.

I’m not sure it’s admirable that the show’s executive producer John Wells resisted the urge to milk the schmaltz factor and avoided out-and-out sentimentality in the finale. The final scene saw the cast lining up outside the ER to admit yet another mass trauma, with the camera pulling away to leave them to just another night at the ER. But without us, the viewers, their committed fans, watching them. We will never see them do anything new again. (The re-runs will no doubt continue in daytime and elsewhere for years.) I felt slightly robbed.

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Er, farewell

Old cast of ER. Warner Bros/NBC/Channel 4

So ER, one of the best US dramas of all time, is finally coming to an end on More4. After 15 years, it’s time to say goodbye to County General and the great, good and downright evil folk who have walked its corridors.

Gulp. Watching a few preview clips on YouTube, I’m already welling up. It’s just like the last ever episode of Friends. The One With the Eerily Empty Apartment and Six Keys on the Counter. I cried big, splashy, red-faced tears.

It’s no use tutting and despairing of me weeping over a sappy TV series. I bet you, dear reader, can think of someone, perhaps a group of people or even a place which you’ve got to know over a number of years. You probably spent a lot of time together. Then you might have lost that person, group or place. Loss is a fundamental human experience and it hurts. I’m not looking forward to the emotional upheaval of finally saying goodbye to ER.

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Television. Hmm

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle. BBC

Hmm. What have I watched this week? Nothing, really. Not great for a TV journalist. I tried a bit of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle on the BBC iPlayer the other night, but just didn’t find it funny. And he was talking about television. Far better was part two of Eddie Izzard – Sexie, which had been on the radio somewhere. Now he knows how to do stand-up comedy. Even on radio where you can’t see the ‘stage business’.

And, other than that, there’s literally been nothing that takes my interest this week. Monday: nothing, including C4’s The Great Sperm Race, “the story of human conception brought to life as people, playing the part of sperm, negotiate hostile terrain”. Sounded like a Guinness ad gone horribly, badly wrong. Tuesday: bloody Heston Blumenthal again on C4; Mistresses on BBC 1; Horizon on BBC 2 doing earthquakes; and Holloway prison on ITV. No thanks.

Wednesday: The (new series of the) Apprentice on BBC 1. Despite the fact that this show gets more and more popular, it is just another reality TV show in which we’re supposed to get to know the contestants and live their (unscripted therefore supposedly close to real-life) ups and downs as they struggle to win the approval of SirAlun’s gimlet eye. I can’t do it, I just can’t.

So to tonight and more of ER on More4. I like the sound of The Mentalist on Five, but that may just be the title. In our household the term ‘mentalist’ is used with approval, as ‘it’s mental’ was back in, oh, the 80s or something.

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Ohmygod – ER’s back and Pratt’s died

ER's Gregory Pratt. NBC/Warner Bros

ER is just about my favourite American TV series EVER. I have loved it since before I knew anything about TV, first spotted it in the listings in the mid-1990s and thought it was something dreadful about Her Majesty. When I tuned in I found it was the snappiest, most intriguing, heart-breaking, at times repulsive and always thrilling TV drama. Which just happens to be set in a Chicago hospital emergency room. And just happened to star George Clooney, Anthony Edwards and Noah Wyle. Plus all the lovely ladies.

Watching ER on Channel 4 on Thursdays used to be a ritual: the beginning of the weekend with only Friday left to struggle through at the office. The hour-long drama left you either high on the goodness of doctors and people in general, or sobbing your heart out as yet another decent, caring but flawed individual crashed and died, sometimes very slowly. Mark Greene’s letter to his colleagues, read out by his one-time protege Carter, was one of the saddest scenes in television history. Greene’s bungled attempt to stop his love, Susan, from leaving on a train, was another terrible highlight. More recently there was Sam’s kidnapping by her crazed ex and Luka’s ordeal at the hands of a grief-crazed Forest Whitaker. Kidnappings were big on ER.

But even I lost the faith with ER, blighted as it was by C4’s abysmal attitude to scheduling must-see TV. When E4 launched in 2001, new series of ER (and Friends) were used to draw viewers to the new channel. Episodes were then repeated, on another day at another time, on C4. That was confusing. The programme was bumped around from 9pm to 10pm and even later. The problem – ER being a US import and sometimes a challenging, fast-paced watch – was always relatively low ratings.

Eventually ER started running on More4, again apparently repeated on C4. But by this time – last year or the year before – I had lost the plot and the will to watch. It didn’t help that the momentum of the drama itself sagged around the start of series 14. I never got to know Hope or Moretti and can’t say I care. Shame C4 didn’t crack what web guru Clay Shirky says is the difference between “6m passionate fans” and “7m bored ones”.

But with the hype of the last ever series, which started last night on More4 at 9pm, I’ve been drawn back in. And what an episode. After an ambulance explosion, presumably at the end of the last series, Pratt went and died! This is what ER has always done best – create a character who is initially a total pain the butt (even Clooney’s Dr Ross was a cad of the first order), but who we come to love as he or she proves their mettle and rises to the top, only to watch them scythed down by the grim reaper. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. This is going to be a corker of a finale.

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