See, with good television, the characters continue to live on, even when they're off-stage. They marry, have children, continue to slay vampires, live, love, experience loss and grace. Now, sloppy writers try to incorporate the life of the actor into the future life of the character, but good writers really take time to think about the character, not the actor, and how the character would have grown/changed/stayed the same in the time off-stage.
Tonight, we saw how things have turned out so far for many of our favorites from ER. Mostly they are all doing well, with their lives relatively "together," or more so than when they were living the crazy life on ER. George Clooney, for example, has really settled down, matured, and is a calm and steady presence in a difficult situation. Julianna Margulies has really come into her own - with awesome confidence and a real sense of self. She really is George's equal...and his partner.
Lovely jokes among the cast. A lovely demonstration of the next generation of ER's staff and that County General is clearly in good hands - and the "two generations" working together is so cool. And I loved how it ended, with Julianna telling George that "the kidney went to some doctor." She didn't even know it was their former colleague.
I also love the way that we can "see" that their ... um.... lives do go on. (sorry for the wretched Celine Dion reference) Even after this episode, their lives will continue, and we have both a sense of closure and a little bit of joy knowing some of how it turned out.
This week I was talking with someone from church who is also a Monk fan. This summer is the last season, and he said he hoped that Monk finally finds out who kills his wife. I am more ambivalent. It would be good to know, but on the other hand, there's a certain bittersweet joy in imagining Monk carrying on in his neuroses and his struggle to understand what happened to his wife, and why. I like to imagine him going on doing what he did in the time I "knew" him. In a way, it makes him more real, more human.
And yes, I know he's a character and not real. But good television lets you imagine that they are.