• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #202: Dr. Doug Ross


No nipples on the lab coat?

ER was an ensemble show, full of wonderful characters given life by talented actors and mostly great writing, especially during the early seasons of the show's run. Greene, Carter, Benton, Lewis - these were textured individuals, laboring to be healers despite their own myriad hurts and wants. Most flawed and heroic of all was Dr. Doug Ross, the party-boy pediatrician with the white knight syndrome and the dreamy mid-1990s five o'clock shadow.


I'll confess here that I'm a Clooney guy. I'm not sure if he's a great actor, but I almost always enjoy his characters. He seems to infuse them with a deep world-weariness and resignation that he papers over with shallow hedonism, and then swallows when hard choices and hard work are called for. There's a rebellious disdain for authority and order in his characters, and Dr. Ross is the archetype. Hospital policies, laws, good counsel, all of these are gossamer curtains between him and what he perceives to be the proper course. He puts the health of patients before the health of his career, and is repeatedly disciplined for his rogue brand of medicine, but the real cost is borne by his friends and colleagues, who often are forced to cover for him or move the sand in the litter box to bury what he leaves behind. Like so many charming narcissists and would-be saviors, Dr. Ross isn't much concerned with this, any more than the elephant in the parade is concerned about the guy behind him with the shovel.


In time, it became apparent that Clooney's career would be in film, the small screen too cramped for his charisma, and the narrative arc of his quixotic doctor fully mined. But somehow, unlike his compatriot Mark Greene, Doug Ross gets a happy ending. Some guys get all the luck.

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