ER (1994- )
Third Watch (1999-2005)
I find it nearly impossible to believe that after eight seasons on the air this is the FIRST crossover for NBC's huge medical drama ER. How is that possible.
Okay, the obligatory quick setup on both shows involved. ER was a drama about the doctors and nurses who worked in a Chicago ER(that may be the simplest show description I've ever had to write). Third Watch was a show about the New York cops, fireman and paramedics who worked the third shift... the late shift.
The crossover involved ER's doctor Susan Lewis played by Sherry Stringfield. She was one of the founding cast members of ER. She was also the only one to leave the show and then come back. In 1996 Sherry Stringfiled chose to leave the show. And not for the normal "I want more money" reasons. She had other things in her life in general she wanted to do. To leave she even had to agree to not take TV work for a stretch of time. She was like, "Sure, no problem." An actress who has a life rather than an ego. God bless her. Her leaving actually has a direct bearing on this crossover.
Before Sherry Stringfield left ER, her plot line involved her taking care of her drug addicted sister's baby and her namesake, Susie. The plot (and her first run on the show) ended with Dr. Lewis's sister Chloe having gotten sober, taking her baby back and moving away. Susan had so bonded with the child and was also worried about handing the baby off to her only just newly rehabilitated sister. So she moved with them.
Cut to the 2001-2002 season. Susan Lewis returns to ER. It seems her sister had in fact cleaned up her act and gotten married. Not only that, she and her husband decided to up and move again to New Jersey. Susan realized that it was kind of weird and stupid to just keep following every time they moved and decided, screw it, I'm heading back to Chicago. Very quickly she got her old job back.
But say, that whole "sister and her daughter" plot just sort of got set to the side didn't it? I mean, a recovered addict with a baby who is related to one of the show's main characters? Come on. In real life maybe she'd stay sober forever but on a TV show there was no way she wasn't falling off the wagon.
And Chloe didn't just fall off the wagon. She did a triple back flip off it. The crossover started with Susan getting a message on her answering machine from her six year old niece saying she and her mom were in a hotel in New York, mom was in bad shape and then suddenly saying, "I have to go!" and hanging up. Great. It looked like Susan's worst fears come true. But Susan actually refused to believe her sister was back on the pipe... so to speak. She knew something was wrong though.
Susan jumped right on the phone to the New York police and then hopped on the first plane to the Big Apple. She was soon working with the Third Watch cops to try and find her sister. Guess what?
They discovered Chloe was messed up on drugs again. The police were less shocked that her sister was playing the junkie again. They found Chloe just in time to throw her into an ambulance and rush her to the hospital and save her life. Only one problem: her daughter was nowhere to be found! The show ended here with the plot to continue on the next episode of Third Watch.
This crossover was a mixed bag in terms of how it worked. A lot of times when two unrelated shows crossover there can be a problem reconciling the tone of the shows. In this case that wouldn't seem so much of an issue. From the start Third Watch was trying to take an ER vibe and approach and apply it to a different group of professionals. So in some ways there was a smooth flow in terms of style. But in other ways it was harsh. Susan watching cops beat info out of junkies and the like was a bit unsettling. Or seeing the cops get more than a bit annoyed with the community watch fanatic on a bike who seemed to think he was part of the force. It's ER. They' re usually fixing injuries not dealing them out.
The biggest weakness I think was that for a big part of the show Dr. Lewis was left with little to do. She drove around with the cops and for the most part just sat in the car and watched any action that happened. The cops beat a guy and she gets to do "shocked face". Come on. What I want is to see her upset and worried about her sister. Wait, that didn't sound right. As a viewer looking for good drama that's what I'm looking for. Not like I'm all, "Yeah, I like watching nice people suffer! Bwahahaha!!!! Or if they could have made Susan at least do something active to help and not just SIT IN THE COP CAR! Come on! Let her jump out and try to help the cops, have them try to get her to behave... something! They did this towards the end of the episode when Susan met the Emergency Medical Team that saved her sister with her trying to help but that was after too many "sitting in the cop car" scenes.
A final note before I get to part 2. Susan ends the show fretting over where her niece could be. All I could think was, "Well, you knew there was a problem in the first place because your niece left a message on your answering machine... have you, um CHECKED IT AGAIN???" I mean, hello! That's probably the one thing the kid might be able to do to help herself. As Susan worried I pictured her machine with that little new call light blinking away like mad and 47 messages all saying, "I, I'm at the McDonald's on 57th Street. Come get me all ready!" Of course it turns out that wouldn't have helped because on the next Third Watch...
...We found Susan and the cops still looking with little success for her niece. They went from one horrible dead end to another. First, Susan was asked to ID the body of a dead girl. Susan was nearly overcome when she saw it wasn't Susie. Next the cops talked to some kids who had seen Susie. It seems the junkie parents all left their kids to play outside the drug house while they were getting high. Two kids recognized a picture of Susie and told the cops that a police officer had taken her away.
The cops thought again they had the case solved. Susie's step-dad Joe was a cop. Maybe dad had come and taken Susie home. When Joe arrived at the police station though it turned out not to be the case. It seems Chloe had been on and off the pipe for longer than Dr. Lewis thought. Disgusted and frustrated her husband Joe had gotten a mistress and when this all had started he had been out of town with her. But the man cared for and was equally worried about Susie.
But what the hell? Who was the cop then? The kiddie witnesses added some more info: it was a cop on a bike. But there were no bike cops assigned to the area Susie was picked up in. Maybe it was someone who looked like a cop, who kids might mistake for a cop. Maybe someone like the neighborhood watch nut they had so deftly introduced on the ER half of this story? Ah ha! The cops track the guy down and discover Susie drugged and locked in a back room of this guy's apartment. Then Officer Bosco beat the living crap out of the guy. By this point in the story, with this creep, you didn't quite mind so much seeing the cop beat a guy. Maybe a little. Just a little.
Susan met the cops with her niece at, of all places, an ER. It turns out she was not drugged badly and that nutty neighborhood watcher hadn't abused her in any way. All well and good? Ohhhh no. Chloe was there as well and happy her daughter was okay. Then her husband Joe showed up and Chloe angrily demanded he leave. After a few comforting words to Susie, he did.
At this point, having flown from Chicago and having been through hell, Susan had a word with her sister about her drug problem and about getting some help. Chloe's response essentially to tell Susan where to go. She insisted she didn't have a problem, that she just slipped, that it wouldn't happen again and that none of this was her fault. She finished off by telling Susan - who remember was responsible from saving Chloe from overdosing and caused Susie to be found - that they didn't need Susan's help and that she should get lost. Shortly after that, once tempers had calmed, Chloe sent Susan for coffee. When Susan returned, Chloe had gone. She checked out of the ER and vanished taking Susie with her. In short, the entire event served as an intense reminder of what Susan Lewis had been through with her sister before and had thought was over. Ha! She may have vanished but I have no doubt Chloe and Susie will pop up again.Other Third Watch Links
Third Watch and Medical Investigations
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Buy these shows on Amazon.com and support this site at the same time! Check out ER and Thirdwatch on DVD! Catch the ER half of the crossover on the ER Season 8 DVD set in the episode "Brothers And Sisters".