The final episode for George Clooney as Dr. Douglas Ross on "ER" last night wasn't nearly as moving as Jimmy Smits' departure from "NYPD Blue" in November through the death of his character, Bobby Simone.
In fact, after all the buildup, Clooney's last hour on "ER" after almost five seasons with the hit series felt like a bit of a letdown. A long kiss for the teary-eyed Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) and a last lakefront chat with his best friend, Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), and Ross was off to a new job in Portland. It was a whimper of an ending compared to the bang of Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) handing in his badge on "Homicide: Life on the Street" last year.
Part of the problem was the script, which simply took too long before focusing its gaze on Ross.
Set against the background of a school bus crash that left the emergency room at Chicago County General more of a madhouse than usual, there was very little Ross during the first half hour. When things did finally quiet down at the halfway point and the camera did zero in on him, the script didn't give Clooney much to work with.
Yes, Ross asked Hathaway to come with him to Portland. And, yes, there was a delay before she gave him an answer. But there wasn't much drama during the wait, as it never seemed as if she would accept.
So, all that was left was the last kiss. The moment was not without emotion, as the show used a variation on the same technique that worked so well for "NYPD Blue" in saying goodbye to Simone: We saw Ross through the crying eyes of the woman who loved him as he made his exit.
Not bad if it had ended there. But even that moment was lost in the wayward curtain call with Greene.
Maybe there's something to be said for understated emotion in such farewell episodes. But the truth is that Ross has been peripheral at "ER" the last year or so, because of Clooney's outside movie work. Last night, the lack of emotional involvement showed.
Pub Date: 2/19/99