TLC’s hit series Untold Stories of the ER debuted back in 2004. Since then, people have been riveted by the stories the show introduces but have often wondered one big question: just how real is everything we see?
For starters, it’s important to remember that the episodes aren’t showing actual footage from emergency rooms — they’re showing dramatic reenactments. TLC does bring on real doctors to describe events they’ve experienced, and sometimes the doctors even portray themselves in the reenactments.
Further, it doesn’t mean that there’s never any real footage from a harrowing case or surgery on the show. One eagle-eyed fan of the series noted that when the camera is directly above a surgery as it happens, for instance, it often indicates the footage is real (via In Touch Weekly). This combination is perhaps what draws audiences in because, even though viewers spend a lot of time seriously debating the merits of the show, it doesn’t stop them from tuning in.
Doctors weigh in on the realness of the TLC series
Dr. Anthony Brutico of Newton Medical Center in Newton, New Jersey, appeared on Untold Stories of the ER, and even wrote an article about what it was really like. He says the entire process, from audition to final script, took about two weeks. “After completing the interview, they turned my two-page case summary into a script for the show,” he explained (via In Touch Weekly).
He even says that the producers of the show only slightly dramatized his story. “To make the case entertaining for television, they spiced up the drama. The patients were younger and were trying to go on a second honeymoon, and what the patient took for his ailments also was altered. The main points of the case, however, remained the same.”
Dr. Robert Slay, who specializes in emergency medicine, also discussed his time on the series. In an interview with ACEP Now, he explains how it was by happenstance that he got his first role in 2005: “During the first year of the show, one of the show’s producers had seen me perform in a storytelling contest and contacted me to do the show.” Dr. Slay adds that doctors who appear on the show do so for different reasons but he recommends doing it for one’s legacy: “We are all toiling away in the ED, seeing incredible human suffering, salvation, and hope. We need to tell the world. Do your kids know what you really do?”
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