News: A Look Back At "ER"
By Mark Barger
NBC is saying farewell to one of its longest running shows next Thursday. "ER" will be closing its doors with a two hour finale, preceded by a one hour retrospective.
It began with novelist Michael Crichton, when he created the drama. In 1994, Crichton said "we are really trying to do something that's different." "ER"'s frenetic pace and rapid fire medical jargon shattered the mold for TV doctors.
"It changed the way we watched television," says TV Guide's Greg Evans. Thursday nights became a vicarious thrill ride for viewers, echoes of Crichton's medical school days alongside ER doctors and nurses. "They're in there for the rush, the adrenaline, the excitement and for the necessity. To do their work under extreme pressure," said Crichton in 1994.
But this "ER" was almost DOA.
"All the networks passed twice. Not just once, they passed twice. Because it was just so different," says TV Guide's Evans. But NBC gave "ER" a third chance.
This time, veteran producer John Wells teamed with Crichton, and they brought in a cast of largely unknown, but optimistic actors. George Clooney said of the program in 1994 "this show is, in every sense of the word, a classy show."
When NBC saw the finished pilot "they were like, what the hell is that?" says original cast member Sherry Stringfield. But test audiences loved it. And even the cast was blown away.
"we all went ooh....wow, we really are a part of something that's much bigger than us individually," says actor Anthony Edwards. When NBC finally gave "ER" a golden thursday time slot, It hoped for the next "LA Law" or "Hill Street Blues". But it immediately got something even bigger.
"Okay, cover of Newsweek is calling us a phenomenon. I think it's a go," says Stringfield. Blockbuster ratings turned actors such as Clooney into household names overnight. Clooney and other original cast members have returned to "ER" in this final season.
"You want the show to go out on a high note the way it came on," says Actor Eriq La Salle. "It's been an incredible experience and one I wouldn't trade for anything," adds series star Noah Wylie.
But it's an experience that's drawing to a close. "We all did a show that we were very proud of for a long time," says Executive Producer John Wells.
"But it's still very good and we're getting a chance to end it while it's still very good. That's a good feeling".
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