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While NBC's Will & Grace has proven that former TV hits are capable of returning to reconnect with mass numbers of viewers, and did so without causing any off-screen drama, it's something of a rarity. Still, network execs are generally game to at least try bringing back yesteryear's classics for today's audiences, and there have been murmurs at NBC that ER is on a shortlist of much-desired revivals. But the medical drama's executive producer John Wells isn't so keen on that idea, saying:
I’m not really interested in rebooting shows. We had a wonderful experience doing ER. But I [feel] like we told those stories. I wouldn’t want to do anything to, in any way, remove or damage what the experience was at the time. . . . I’m not a big fan of the reboots and the nostalgia for old shows, particularly when they’re available now.
He's got a point, naturally. Back when ER launched in 1994, it was a thousand times harder for TV fans to be able to freely find and watch whatever shows were desired. There was syndication, of course, as well as the more classic days of Nick at Nite's throwback programming. But in many cases, it was easier (so to speak) for a network to just remake a formerly popular concept as opposed to trying to get the original series released in some way. (The days before DVDs were trash.)
Now, though, the amount of streaming services alone is higher than the number of channels people could watch on TV 60 years ago. Plus, many of those services contain the entire runs of some of the medium's most popular and influential series, meaning viewers are never far away from reliving all the TV magic they can handle. Not all shows have made it to the streaming era, to be sure, but ER's 331 episodes are available to get busy with at a moment's notice.
John Wells' argument isn't just about the fact that all of ER's episodes are available to watch somewhere online, but he also points out that the episodes they made for NBC (until its end in 2009) can still be used as conversation-starters for all the relevant points they made. Here's how he put it to TVLine.
While some of the hairstyles [on ER] are a little weird, the issues and things that we were talking about, the emotions and experiences people were going through, are still valid and still have resonance.
Sure, there are probably some storylines that feel a little clunky all these years later, and watching Dr. Robert Romano do things is good for raising one's blood pressure. But for the most part, ER can still be as powerful as any other TV drama out there. Those earliest eps are definitely guilty of the weird hairstyles, but that's also where fans got to watch the opening chords of Dr. Carter's tumultuous relationship with Dr. Benton. As well as when Doug Ross and Mark Green were running them halls.
So, if there ever comes a point in time where virtually all of the emotional and thematic decisions witnessed on ER are deemed universally moot, then MAYBE John Wells might consider a trip back through the ER's swinging doors for another round of medical emergencies. But until that happens, I think we can all appreciate the 331 episodes that are currently available to stream on Hulu.