Michael Crichton, RIP


He died of cancer at age 66. Crichton’s main contribution to TV was creating ER; he wrote the pilot based on a script he’d written in the early ’70s. By the time it was produced, in the early ’90s, he practically ruled popular culture, what with that show and the many successful movies based on his books. You can fault him for a lot of things — see Christopher Buckley’s famous review of Rising Sun for a funny primer on his faults — but he had a real gift for imaginative concepts that people would respond to. Not just premises, but concepts; ER and Jurassic Park and Westworld don’t necessarily have the most original premises in the world, but they’re thought out conceptually in ways that makes them feel new. ER in particular showed how the stale concept of the medical drama could become fresh if fleshed out with more specific details and a greater sense of intensity than previous, more leisurely-paced (and less jargon-filled) doctor shows.

(Update: As pointed out in comments, linked review is not for Rising Sun but for Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honour. I mis-remembered it because it mentions Rising Sun at the top. Sorry about that.)

Plus, he wrote and directed Westworld, without which we would not have the Simpsons “Itchy and Scratchy Land” episode or the many other TV episodes and movies that have ripped it off.


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Michael Crichton, RIP

  1. To my mind, creating EITHER ONE of just ER or Jurassic Park would make a highly successful career.

    Add to that The Great Train Robbery, The Andromeda Strain, Westworld, Twister…



  2. That Buckley review seems to be for Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honour – am I missing something?

  3. No, I’m missing something, like intelligence — I somehow remembered it as being about Rising Sun. (He did mention it at the top, but that’s not an excuse.) Thanks for the correction, and I’ll try to look before I link.

  4. One interesting thing about Crichton is that he had two really big periods of success – the first in the 70s with The Andromeda Strain, Coma, and Westworld. After then going relatively quiet in the eighties he became huge in the 90s again.

    The formulas he wrote to were almost comical in how rigidly he applied them: not many authors have as blatantly rewritten their own books as he did when he reworked “Disclosure” as “Airframe.” However, his best books were pretty good reads.

  5. My favorites (as I was growing up) were Andromeda Strain
    and Terminal Man. In recent years, after noticing his lecture material and seeing him in TV interviews, I appreciated his wonderful intellect and views to be expressed.
    He’ll be sorely missed. I offer my condolences to his loved ones.

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