Time To Revisit The ER

By: Michael Riddle
By: Michael Riddle

Time is running out on the longest-running medical drama on television. If you haven't watched ER on Thursday nights in awhile, perhaps it's time to tune in once again.

ER is the longest running medical drama in U.S. Television history. The show debuted in 1994 and is in its 15th and final season. John Wells from Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment has been producing the show since inception and this season he's adding magic to the series as it winds down to the final episode.

Last week's episode of ER was a great example of why the show has endured for so many years. That episode included a cameo appearance by Academy Award nominated actor William H. Macy reprising his role as Dr. Morgenstern. The story involved an elderly man suffering from dementia who turned out to be the young innovative doctor who helped establish the ER back in the turbulent 1960's. Macy as Dr. Morgenstern had been mentored by the innovative doctor and returned to the ER to oversee the aged man's dying moments. It was a touching episode that provided a link for the new young doctors of the ER with the veterans of County General's ER. The episode was a reflection of John Wells skills as a producer and writer.

ER debuted on NBC and WITN on September 14, 1994. It quickly shot up to #1 in the ratings both on NBC and on WITN. In May of 1995 the show scored a 23 rating, 41 share in eastern North Carolina. That means that over 40% of TV sets watching television at 10:00pm on Thursday nights were tuned to WITN. Almost 150,000 people were watching on any given Thursday night......... you could fill 3 Dowdy-Ficklen Stadiums and still have people outside waiting to get in!

ER started out as a movie script written by the late Michael Crichton back in the 1970's, based upon his experiences as a medical student. The script then sat on the shelf for almost 20 years. After Crichton and Steven Spielberg had amazing success with his story of "Jurassic Park", the script for ER was dusted off, and prepared as a 2-hour TV movie. Spielberg stayed on as executive producer during the first season and installed John Wells from his Amblin Entertainment as producer. Over 15 seasons, ER has finished in list of Top 5 series 9 times with 3 of those seasons as #1.

Those early episodes featured a lot of familiar characters: Sherry Stringfield as Dr. Lewis, Anthony Edwards as Dr. Green, Eriq La Salle as Dr. Benton, George Clooney as Dr. Ross, Julianna Marguiles as Nurse Hathaway and a young, scrub-faced Noah Wyle as the new intern, Dr. Carter.

John Wells has been reaching out to those original cast members as the series winds down this year. Anthony Edwards (whose character had died of cancer), re-appeared in a "flash-back" episode that aired in January. Eriq La Salle is directing the episode scheduled to air on February 12th. Noah Wylie, who left the show after the 11th season, still owes a couple of appearances to the show and his character, Dr. Carter will return to the ER on February 19th and February 26th and may appear  in even more episodes.

Originally the series was scheduled to bow out on March 12th. In a deal with John Wells to place his new show "Southland" on the schedule (replacing ER), Wells agreed to produce three more episodes and has reportedly convinced George Clooney to return and reprise his role as Dr. Ross one more time. ER is now scheduled to air a 1-hour retrospective episode at 8:00pm on April 2nd to be followed by the 2-hour series finale from 9:00pm - 11:00pm.

The longest running medical drama on television has helped launch a lot of successful careers. Through the years it has also featured an amazing array of guest performers including Kirsten Dunst in 1996, George's Aunt Rosemary Clooney in 1995, Shia LeBeouf in 2000 along with Lucy Liu, Dakota Fanning, Alan Alda and Don Cheadle.

ER, the ground-breaking series is nearing its end. Tune in and catch some of the magic, one more time, before they shut the doors and bid goodbye.


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