Allow me to introduce my recap of ER's season premiere by remarking that, earlier the same evening, I'd spent the better part of twenty minutes in hand-to-paw combat with my cat in the service of getting him to swallow a pill, and I imagined that no episode of ER could possibly suck more than that. But this episode came damn close.
And now, um, America's most-watched drama returns. Or something.
Fade up on "Saint" Carol "Of Chicago" Hathaway boarding the El train. In the four months since we saw her last, Hathaway has gotten hee-yuge. An old man advises her to sit down and asks a punkish guy to give up his seat to Hathaway, and the punkish guy doesn't want to, and the two of them throw each other attitude, and Hathaway says in her saintliest tone, "Really, it's okay -- thank you anyway." After she gets off the El, a Rollerblading couple nearly crashes into her, falling on the ground in front of her instead, and she helps them up. Then she goes to a coffee shop, and she hears the punkish guy ordering "an ice-blended double-mocha mocha supremo," and excuse me, but the whole "ordering a complicated coffee drink = emotional bankruptcy" equation got old about five years ago. Anyhow, while Hathaway waits in line, a nosy old woman asks her questions about her pregnancy and regales her with horror stories about deliveries of twins, and Hathaway listens politely, and the old woman wants to touch Hathaway's pregnant womb, and Hathaway declines politely, and the old woman gives her some guff about that. Um, old woman? You don't even know her, so mind your own beeswax. Finally, Hathaway orders a warm milk, and a kid with wicked ugly braces in line behind her comments that "warm milk is nasty," and Hathaway busts his chops a little about his bad manners and asks what he plans to order, and he says, "A double-tall vanilla lattÃ©," and Hathaway tells him that coffee will stunt his growth and asks if his parents let him drink it, and the kid asks, "What are you, the Coffee Police?" Good point, Wicked Ugly Braces Kid. Then Hathaway goes to get a napkin, and a balloon bursts, and she jumps, and a little girl starts whining really obnoxiously about the balloon, and the little girl's mom tells her just to take the blue one, and the girl has a fit about the balloon, presumably to show us what Hathaway has to look forward to, and as the little girl's mom implores her not to "make a scene," Hathaway leaves the coffee shop shaking her head, and seconds later a truck goes out of control and Hathaway just barely dodges it as it crashes through the front window of the coffee shop at thirty miles per hour, and she watches it in slo-mo, her customary look of antiseptic smugness replaced by horror at narrowly missing getting hit.