By the time of the first commercial breakaway, anyone watching the pilot/preview of "ER"-- NBC's new entry into the big-money Thursday 10 p.m. spot it has ruled, via "Hill St. Blues" and "L.A. Law," lo these many years -- should feel understandably frazzled and perhaps even blood-spattered. Series gets off to a spectacular start, a 15-minute uninterrupted sequence, a triumph of editing and intercuts, as the staff of Cook County General's emergency room deals with an influx of bashed and battered victims of a building collapse in midtown Chicago.

By the time of the first commercial breakaway, anyone watching the pilot/preview of “ER”– NBC’s new entry into the big-money Thursday 10 p.m. spot it has ruled, via “Hill St. Blues” and “L.A. Law,” lo these many years — should feel understandably frazzled and perhaps even blood-spattered. Series gets off to a spectacular start, a 15-minute uninterrupted sequence, a triumph of editing and intercuts, as the staff of Cook County General’s emergency room deals with an influx of bashed and battered victims of a building collapse in midtown Chicago.

Comparisons with CBS’ simultaneously running “Chicago Hope” are inevitable; this is the time, if ever, to consider either purchasing or mastering a VCR — with results possibly describable as overdose. Aside from similarities in venue and timeslot, however, the series vary markedly. From “Hope’s” idealistic and lovelorn high-level surgeons you get more science; from “ER,” more blood.

Writer Michael Crichton (“Jurassic Park”) denies his hard-pressed medicos the wisecracks that get the better-paid surgeons of “Hope” through their day.

Veteran plot-spotters should find this first script up to expectations. Told at the start that “you’re only a resident, years away from your first operation, ” there’s no problem guessing that Eriq LaSalle will, by program’s end, choke off a tricky aneurysm practically single-handed (and even earn a reluctant plaudit from crusty staff boss William H. Macy).

Brand-new intern Noah Wyle blanches upon arrival at the blood ‘n’ guts and trembles somewhat at his first IV implant; by a single day’s end both he and his hand have steadied immeasurably.

Sheer energy carries the show. Foreground action unrolls against a background of constant busyness — cops, firemen, nurses, hand-wringing relatives in motion , marshalled by director Rod Holcomb into a teeming, contrapuntal texture underlined in Randy Jon Morgan’s breathless, jagged-edge editing.

Character development among the principals also proceeds at frenetic pace. Pediatrician George Clooney arrives hung over after a hard night’s night; within hours he has acquired the rhetoric to tell off the mother of a battered child. Questioned on whether he remains faithful to his wife, surgeon Anthony Edwards admits to being “too tired to do anything else.”

As proof, he is allotted a total of 2 1/2 hours’ sleep in the pilot’s 25 1/2 -hour slice of life, yet he functions heroically in pulling chief nurse Julianna Margulies back from an attempted sleeping-pill suicide (for reasons to be revealed, no doubt, as the series chugs along).

Rumors persist that CBS will vacate the battlefield and move “Chicago Hope” to a Monday spot. Hurrah; both shows are riveting, superior TV fare. That’s good news for viewers: Choosing between them is no easier than the choice facing the parents of Siamese twins on the first episode of “Hope.” There, however, Mandy Patinkin’s scalpel saves them both; the realities of Thursdays at 10 might not be that benevolent.

Show previews Monday and debuts Sept. 22 in its regular Thursday night slot.

ER

NBC, Mon. Sept. 19 9-11 p.m.

Production

Filmed by Constant C Prods. and Amblin Television Prods. in association with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, Michael Crichton, John Wells; producer, Dennis Murphy; director, Rod Holcomb; writer, Michael Crichton.

Crew

Camera , Thomas Del Ruth; production designer, Michael Helmy; editor, Randy Jon Morgan; music, James Newton Howard. 120 MIN.

With

Cast: Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Sherry Stringfield, Noah Wyle, Eriq La Salle, Julianna Margulies, Christine Harnos, William H. Macy.[ Holly Gagnier, Glenn Plummer, Vanessa Marquez, Yvette Freeman, Deezer D, Abraham Benrubi, Scott Jaeck, Paul Benjamin, Elizabeth Ruscio, Michael Fairman, Julianna McCarthy, Troy Evans, Michael Cavanaugh, Jeff Doucette, Christine Healy, Liz Vassey, Tracey Ellis, Conni Marie Brazelton, Ellen Crawford, Petra Porras, Ryan Cutrona, Angelo DiMascio Jr., Joe D'Angerio, Scott Lincoln, Maria Celedonio, Jay Leggett, Anne Gee Byrd, Sharon Schlarth, Walter F. Kelly, Shirl Appleby, Susanne Nitter, Suzanne Ventulett, Christopher Wynne, Sally Hughes, Perry Anzilotti, Lawrence A. Mandley, Courtenay McWhinney, Lou Charloff, Jarrett Lennon, Joanna Lipari, Phyllis Ehrlich, Eddie Torres, Shelly Desaj, Nina Henderson, Thomas Dekker, Katherine Gauthier, Suzanne Carney, Gay Storm, Cynthena Sanders, Matthew Gottlieb, Lance Gentile, Isabel Lorca, Ingo Neuhaus, Alex Hernandez, Herbert Jefferson Jr., Yvonne Zima. ]

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