Yes I've heard the comments... "Is ER still on the air?" on message boards. It is, indeed. This will be the 11th season and the only original major cast member still on the show is Noah Wyle as Dr. Carter.
I don't know what it is about this show... but it can still give me an anxiety attack on a weekly basis with it's story and direction. Any show that runs this long gives you the chance to become attached to the characters and affected by what happens to them. When it comes to season finales and openers, any show can come perilously close to "jumping the shark" for the sake of ratings, and although this came close (with two main characters in peril), I still enjoyed it immensely.
At the end of last season we had Dr. Pratt and Dr. Chen involved in a road-rage car chase, Samantha leaving town with her son due to an abusive ex-husband that had tracked her down, and the miscarriage of Dr. Carter's girlfriend Kem. That's a lot of threads to tie up in a one hour episode, but they did it and it certainly kept things from being boring.
Pratt and Chen (and a young guy who had attached himself to Pratt) end up crashing into a river and sinking. Chen has been shot and the passenger has a broken neck. Eventually Pratt and Chen are rescued, and although presumed dead the young man ends up at the ER as well (although he's probably brain-dead).
The aftermath of Kem's miscarriage leads to feelings of loss and isolation on her part and she retreats from Dr. Carter, deciding to head back to Africa to sort things out. Sam's son contacts Dr. Kovac via cell phone telling him where they are. Kovac heads out to talk Sam into returning to Chicago.
Also, Dr. Weaver (a recently "outed" lesbian) wins primary custody of her infant son, with the family of her deceased partner agreeing to take care of the infant while Weaver is on duty. ER has a seriously liberal bent when it comes to issues like this and gun control, so I'm not surprised they resolved this in such a manner, although the turnaround in the family's opinion is out of the blue and without explanation. Even casting the homosexual issue aside, with the schedule and hours that Weaver works in the ER, how can she possibly raise a child, much less an infant? IMO it would have been better for the child to end up with the other family, but hey, that's just me.
Overall the episode was gripping, and the character I love to hate, the completely inept and lazy resident-in-training whose name escapes me is still there. He was probably responsible for putting Pratt in temporary coma but of course passes the blame on to something else. I really hope the guy gets hit by a truck or finally gets found at some point. Either that or they'll let him become a doctor to let us know that there really are guys out there practicing medicine that have no right to.