You'd think TV viewers would be used to dramatic reenactments by now, but the dramatizations on Untold Stories of the ER are still confusing fans, apparently! The TLC docu-drama has real-life doctors describe the medical cases they'll never forget in the usual "talking head" format, and often these MDs will even play themselves in the reenactments. (Sometimes, TLC even gets the patients in question to play themselves, too!) But some fans seem to think Untold Stories is trying to pass off the reenactments as actual footage from the ER.
"You can tell they are actors," said one commenter on a Yahoo! Answers forum post. "Looks fake." Well… yeah! A lot of the people on the show are actors, and a lot of what you see on screen has been staged in order to portray the actual cases.
Luckily, other fans know what's up. "The stories are real, but it's dramatization," said another commenter. "It's just letting you get an idea of what they are telling you."
Another TLC cognoscente suggested a good rule of thumb for telling the actual hospital footage apart from the dramatization: "During the surgery parts, when the camera is directly above them and it [goes] from HD to something else, it's real footage."
In a 2014 essay for Perspectives in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Anthony Brutico of Newton Medical Center in Newton, NJ, recounted his experience appearing on the show and revealed the inner workings of these dramatizations.
"After completing the interview, they turned my two-page case summary into a script for the show," he said. "The process took roughly two weeks to finish, and I was mailed multiple versions of the script to check for medical appropriateness."
So far so good, right? According to this doc, the producers only made slight changes to his story. "To make the case entertaining for television, they spiced up the drama," he explained. "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, and the show wanted to stay true to the medicine of the case."
So there you have it, people. These Untold Stories of the ER may seem too outlandish to be true, but everyone knows truth is stranger than fiction.