'Good Fight' episode is TV drama as it should be Preview: Finely written, finely acted, tonight's 'ER' will help cure what ails you about this TV season.

November 19, 1998|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

In all our complaining about television, we forget how special a great series can be. If you feel like you need to be reminded in this season of network misery, make an appointment tonight to see "ER."

The episode titled "The Good Fight" is a textbook on the hourlong drama: near-perfect point-counterpoint, plot-subplot writing and not a false note of acting. Noah Wyle has never been better, and Kellie Martin provides just the kind of pluck and enthusiasm needed to keep the story from getting too dark. Man-for-man, woman-for-woman, the crew at County General Memorial has not looked this good in years.

The plot seems so simple, but that's how it is with the best TV writing -- honed until the narrative is a rope stretched taut across the hour.

A young girl, Corinna (Nicolette Little), and her father, Nelson (John Thaddeus), are seriously injured in an auto accident. The girl needs a transfusion and major surgery, but she has a rare blood type. Her father is a match, but he suddenly disappears while in the care of third-year medical student Lucy Knight (Martin).

As Drs. Greene (Anthony Edwards), Ross (George Clooney) and Benton (Eriq LaSalle) try to save the girl's life, Knight and Dr. Carter (Wyle) find themselves on a seemingly hopeless search through some of the worst parts of Chicago for Corinna's father. The story ping-pongs back and forth between those two stories with an exquisite sense of tick-tick-tick urgency and timing.

In that sense, "The Good Fight" will remind "Homicide: Life on the Street" fans of that series' finest moment last year: the episode titled "The Subway." Same basic two-beat structure: As Pembleton (Andre Braugher) and paramedics deal with a commuter trapped under a subway car, Lewis (Clark Johnson) and Falsone (Jon Seda) search for the dying man's wife, who is jogging somewhere around Federal Hill.

Martin, Wyle and the "ER" script manage to make their search a journey of suspense and humor.

Credit much of that to the come-here, come-here, come-here, get-away, get-away, get-away vibes between Knight and Carter. And they seem to be the only two people in Chicago -- including Carter's lady friend -- who do not see them as a couple.

"ER" borrows something else from "Homicide" tonight -- a not-so-happy ending and a final scene between a man and a woman on the roof of the building in which they work. The two talk about life, death and the dark night of the soul as they look out over the city and offer each other what small comfort they can.

"The Good Fight" is good medicine in a bad network season -- a full dose of drama that will make you feel much better instantly about the state of prime-time TV.

'ER'

When: 10 to 11 tonight

Where: NBC (WBAL, Channel 11)

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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