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I was never interested in ER. Wait, I take that back, I was slightly interested because Michael Crichton created the show and as a young lad I loved Crichton’s novels. So I do remember sitting down with my parents to watch early episodes of ER. And it’s amazing that we’re now 331 episodes into a show that was almost never greenlit. Right now in 2009 we’re talking about an end of an era, where 10:00pm on Thursday nights was filled with some sort of drama. Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere occupied this slot, and it was thought that ER would be a poser to the throne.
Whether you liked ER or not I think it’s safe to say that the series earned its place in the pantheon of great television. Sure the show got hokey, and bums were always taking over things….and then I randomly caught a helicopter falling on a guy in a recent season that had me laughing for a few days afterwards. But ER launched George Clooney, and it made Gilbert Lowell a little less nerdy than before. It was a bona fide “mega hit” in the 90s, and kept a respectable following during its waning years.
ER is quite simply the most successful thing NBC has done in about 40 years. The premiere was a 20+ million viewer event. Nearly 48 million people watched the episode following Seinfeld’s finale. Not only is the show one of the longest running dramas on television – and one that has kept a decent audience for an amazing fifteen years – but it's also the longest running medical drama in TV history. ER has also racked up 122 Emmy nominations, beating out Cheers for most nominations for a series. Despite such a lauded awards history the show has only won once for Outstanding Drama Series back in 1996.
Some of the history of ER is just astounding, and for the creators and writers to be afforded such a free reign on how to sign off is a show of respect by NBC. Even though the audience is a fraction of the 20 million viewers back in the mid-90s ER is getting the sendoff the creators think it deserves. Perhaps it won’t satisfy everyone, but I’ve always felt that a series finale needs to be a part of the entire series. Trumping it up with the return of every departed character, or a guy holding up the ER in a tank, would kind of diminish the most tragic death in the show’s history. So now we say goodbye to ER and wonder what will become of the 10:00pm slot when Jay Leno takes it over in the fall. One thing is for certain, no one is being diagnosed with terminal cancer based on a deviating tongue.