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TUNED IN

'ER' still operating well

September 25, 2003|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

If you haven't watched "ER" in a while, now would be an ideal time to give the medical drama another chance. Either those rumors of its grave decline were greatly exaggerated or it's made a miracle recovery.

Tonight's pulsating Season 10 premiere (10 p.m., NBC) proves there is life after Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Julianna Margulies et al. The episode, written by John Wells and directed by Jonathan Kaplan, introduces a compelling cast member and sets up several promising story lines.

"Bend It Like Beckham" heroine Parminder Nagra joins the staff as Neela Rasgotra, a med student born in Punjab, India, but educated in London and Chicago. Add her harried shift to "ER's" list of memorable first days. Neela, who has a touch of that certain Audrey Hepburn something, draws the attentions of Dr. Pratt (Mekhi Phifer), that slightly devious smoothie, and nice guy Michael Gallant (Sharif Atkins). Can't wait to see which, if either, she clicks with.

Tonight's show also reveals the result of last season's cliffhanger, when Drs. Carter (Noah Wyle) and Kovac (Goran Visnjic) joined up with a Doctors Without Borders-like organization in Congo, only to encounter as much violence as they might on the job during sweeps week.

On a lighter note, the underappreciated Troy Evans keeps swiping scenes as the gruff clerk, Frank -- Rush Limbaugh's spiritual brother and this viewer's wishful-thinking candidate for a spinoff if the series ever ends.

Let's hope that takes a while. Even at its ripe old age, the prognosis for "ER" couldn't be better.

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