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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Remembering Lucy Knight of 'ER'

I never met a girl who makes me feel the way that you do.
You're all right!
The Temptations, "Get Ready," 1966

    There is something to be said for the notion of cinema being life, and the rest being a review of the silver screens. The construction of alternate realities mirroring circumstances and personal aspects surrounding many people does strike deep. When you think about it, your own eyes(to say nothing of your car's wind-shield) are 3D theatrical screens in a way, showing you many views and perspectives of the world. You can truly thank the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, for that.

    I've always been more of a TV series guy than anything else. Some of my favourites include "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Newhart," and "All in the Family." These days, I get into "Better Call Saul," as well as the comedy shows of Bill Maher's and John Oliver's. Stepping into the wayback machine for the purpose of this article, in the year I was 16, I watched old episodes of the TV medical drama "ER," which served as a unique, kaleidoscopic view of society. For a young person like me, that show blew some of my mind's doors off of their hinges. Naturally, I had favourite characters, those being Lucy Knight(Kellie Martin, of "Life Goes on" fame) and Robert "Rocket" Romano(Paul McCrane, of "Fame" fame and last seen in "Atlas Shrugged, Part II"). This month marks 17 years since the airing of the two episodes in which the former, my favourite of the two, was killed off. That was an important moment in my life, in a lot of ways. For some reason, I'm feeling compelled to type this all out right now. So now, kiddies, let's take a journey through the looking glass...

    My father had long been insistent that we watch this show. We had the first season of it on the DVD shelf for years, so it seemed a logical conclusion. As I had gotten myself into hot water over school grades, I decided I might as well acquiesce to 'ER.' The show started off serious, yet engaging. The characters and story lines were easy to get into, sort of like Campbell's soup flavours that way. Lots of interesting side characters came and went, never staying on long enough to engender feelings of attachment.

    The entrance of the Anna Del Amico(Maria Bello) character at the end of the third season added a certain something to the show that was not there before. She was the first one who was, inside and out, decidedly not unattractive--Qualities I'd never seen on the show before. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of average, inoffensive women on the show, but this was new. As I saw one of the patients embarrass himself with...shall we say uncontrolled excitement, the seed was inadvertently planted in my head, puns intended, regarding whether or not she was 'all that.' However, it was all clear from the beginning that she was, like the Tom Petty song, too good to be true. At the beginning of the fifth season, she was out, but someone else was in. Someone who grabbed my attention instantly.

    As Johnny Rivers sang in 1967, "She stepped out of the rainbow, golden hair shinin' like moon-glow." After all, before there was Erin Burnett, among others, there was Lucy Knight: A stand-out face in the crowd running out from the subway terminal to help someone in need. With swiftness and deftitude, her actions helped stabilize a badly injured old man lying across the pavement. She was certainly not lacking in looks, being easily the most attractive lady the show ever had as a cast member. Moreover, she had a good, easy-going, compassionate nature and a desire to help people in any way possible. In these ways, she ably emerged in my mind as a sort of a female ideal--Somebody who typified all those things I grew to like about women.

    But there was something else that jumped out at me, something that rubbed me the wrong way as I was watching. Being new as she was to medical environs, she bumbled and stumbled through both small and large situations and procedures, some serious and some not as much. For me, it was like looking into a mirror. My inner self told me "You know, you two are a LOT alike!" I angrily shot back "NO, I'm NOT!" It was an unavoidable truth, though. For perspective, I wasn't doing well getting Geometric concepts down that year, bumbling and stumbling similar to how she was. I felt like I was watching the female version of myself in a doctor's coat, and to say it wasn't fun would be to understate things.
    By the beginning of Season 6, though, I was finally ready to put all those things behind me and embrace the new girl as someone to like. She had grown as a character--Someone who did good teamwork with Dr John Carter(Noah Wyle) in an effort to track down a dad with a rare blood type, and was actually willing to bang on the acerbic Dr. Romano's door at 3-ish AM for the sake of a dying patient. That's somebody to love. Why wouldn't I try to get past my own personal insecurities and prejudices?

"And fate is setting up the Chessboard, while death rolls out the dice.
Anyone for tennis? Wouldn't that be nice?
Cream, "Anyone for Tennis," 1968

    On the eve of New Year 2011, as I was looking up pictures of the cast for a possible YouTube video(the finished product was recalled--could never get any song I liked to mesh with that show), I unearthed spoilers that would ruin the show for me. The biggest one for me, by far, was learning that Knight was slated to be brutally killed off in the middle of the 6th season, the season I had just started to watch. I had no expectations for the new year, which set the stage even more. Imagine starting out a new year with a sense of foreboding regarding somebody you had just grown to like. It wasn't fun.
    The episode was as bad as I had expected, and plunged me into the depression I now consider my reality. In defense of 'ER,' if it weren't that, it would have been something else, and maybe much worse--My dear friend Tim died 8 months after I saw those episodes. There are ways I could be more sideways, perhaps even dare I say sunk, than I am right now. Just imagine if I'd seen those episodes without benefit of a spoiler! Again, not fun considerations.

    I never begrudged, nor would I ever do such, Kellie Martin for her leaving the show. Given circumstances that were said to be in play at that time(family medical issues, and such of the like), it was clearly the best decision. Those times that I've seen her name in the news, I am very happy with what I see. No, the ones I have the problem with are producers who wrote such a rotten script. Given that she was posthumously accepted as a psych resident, you could have had her going out in a happier way than this. Then again, I don't write scripts for TV shows. There's a reason for that, I guess. All I do is create fictional alter-egos and other characters to act out roles in my own alternate universe. I'd love to be a fiction writer that merges Norman Rockwell-esque sentimentality with Piers Anthony/Alan Dean Foster sci-fi stuff, all written in the style of the rock music biographies I so loved in my teen years.

    Her death started the transformation of 'ER' from serious medical drama to just another carny-like excursion in pointlessness, by the end of its run completely fading into the backdrop of all the other sudsy, soap-operatic piffle that constitutes modern daytime TV. That trend continued with the departure of Carol Hathaway(Julianna Margulies, an acting mainstay on daytime TV) later on in season 6 and the cancer-death of Mark Green(Anthony Edwards, of "Top Gun" fame), and was finally cemented into place with the rather ridiculous, to say nothing of unrealistic, death of Robert "Rocket" Romano. At this point, I cut out of the charade.
    Really, though, it was the introduction of two characters in Season 6, Abby Lockhart(Maura Tierney, of “News Radio” fame) and Luka Kovach(Goran Visnjik), that set in motion all the silliness, and I spotted it off the bat. From Knight's death on out, the producers could have just named every episode of the show "Abby Road," "Dear Abby," or some other stupid variation of the name. While not bad people, the clear intention of these characters was to take the show where it should not have gone, transforming it into "Love Boat" in a doctor's office(Perhaps "Calling Dr. Love" would have been a good name for this show?). Matter of factly, it was only recently that I began to take anything good from my 'ER'-watching experiences, the framed pictures I've had of Knight and Romano on my wall notwithstanding.

    Maybe it was my continued shock over watching her TV death years ago that was at the root of the visceral reaction of horror and pure sadness I had at the murder of Pop singer Christina Grimmie this past Summer. It felt way too real, as well as being a continuation of the theme of wonderful people being taken out too young, before they can make the best impacts on this world. Grimmie, like Lucy Knight, had her whole life ahead of her and endless opportunities to do good things. Both were even close to the same age when they were brutally cut down, and had surviving parents. To paraphrase something I said in a previous posting on Grimmie, they were both somebody's children. Then again, I suppose one should give less weight to Knight, as she was a character in a TV show. Still, the point remains.

    As I type this, I feel like it is 2011 all over again. I'm standing in a dirt-floored Flea Market, and am holding in my hand an old-fangled Mike & the Mechanics cassette tape. I'm still thinking of her a month after watching those episodes. Surreal how trips down memory lane work.

    Coming back to the present day, was watching a short clip from the show a short time ago(How NOT to Present a Patient), and it was everything I remember of her and the show's classic period, with hindsight serving matters even better than wild dreams. While I still regrettably have the anxieties and foibles I saw in myself watching her years ago, I handle it better at 22 than I did at 16. As such, I'm not inclined to knee-jerkishly dislike her for what I see--To the contrary, I can identify, even if watching her in action is still a little uncomfortable. Besides, I'd hope that I can compensate with the better parts of her persona: Good naturedness, a willingness to help, and to go above and beyond to make sure things get done as they should. Of course, whether or not I do is up for others and God to judge, and not myself.

"Presenting a case is like telling good stories: Succinct, focused, and to the point."--Dr. Robert Romano to Lucy Knight, after an botched attempt at presenting a patient

    All right, end of this rant. Some people say I should keep my feelings to myself. I think not.

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