Reality Check

'ER' and 'Chicago Hope': Getting A Second Opinion

Chicago Hope and ER may seem virtually indistinguishable to laymen, but not to doctors. We asked two Windy City physicians, Children's Memorial pediatrics resident Matt McKeever and Northwestern Memorial internal-medicine resident Mark Weiner, both 28, to analyze the shows. Their diagnosis: Chicago Hope is bad medicine, while ER is just what the doctor ordered.

Mark Weiner: We both felt that ER was extremely lifelike. In fact, we turned to each other many times during the show and said, ''This is real!''

Matt McKeever: ER touched on the different specialties and how they interact with each other. Chicago Hope was all over the map: You saw the same guys doing brain surgery, heart surgery, and pediatric heart-transplant surgery.

Weiner: I expected Buckaroo Banzai to come in and help. You know, ''I gotta take out your brain tumor, and I'm opening up for Guns N' Roses.''
McKeever: Chicago Hope is a Marcus Welby continuation where the surgeons are superheroes, versus a very human, down-to-earth portrayal in ER.
Weiner: The conflicts central to Chicago Hope are not what happens in a real hospital. It made for a somewhat entertaining, L.A. Law-type discussion of issues, but it was so far away from the planet Earth it might as well have been in L.A.
McKeever: You didn't feel like you were in Chicago. There weren't enough fat guys eating sausages.
Weiner: And having heart attacks.
McKeever: The scene where they're golfing in Wrigley Field, perhaps the smallest field in baseball, was absurd. You'd be driving balls into people's windows.
Weiner: And into the surrounding bars.
McKeever: You'd be basically supplying ER with its next round of admissions.
Weiner: One thing that pissed me off about Chicago Hope was the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism by biting someone's finger. It showed complete lack of medical knowledge. The whole biting of the finger as part of the physical exam went out years ago (they laugh).
McKeever: A lot of Chicago Hope is artifice. You might tune in to have your image of old-school medicine reinforced, whereas if you tune into ER, you might learn something about modern medicine.
Weiner: Chicago Hope is way too sweet for anyone who knows anything about medicine.
McKeever: To be fair to Chicago Hope, I did like Adam Arkin's character. I felt the humanity there, but I wished he were doing something like law or gardening.
Weiner: Or cooking amazing dishes in Alaska.

Originally posted Sep 23, 1994 Published in issue #241 Sep 23, 1994 Order article reprints
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