TELEVISION: Angels with Dirty Faces

Its doctors aren't glamorous and its stories aren't pretty, but ER is the season's surprise hit

Doctors are television's perfect heroes. From Richard Boone in Medic through doctors Casey, Kildare and Welby to the bustling gang in St. Elsewhere, they have wielded their power like benevolent dictators. With a flick of the scalpel, they can make decisions of life and death, and with a consoling word reconcile people to either. They are privy to their patients' closest secrets, deepest fears, most traumatic life moments. Dressed in white, they watch over them like angels. And when they make their bedside pronouncements, they do it from above, like God.

The doctors on ER, however, are somewhat different. They don't...