It’s been rumored for some time that NBC’s very long-running medical drama ER would close up at the end of this season. Executive producer John Wells says that it’s not a done deal.
ER debuted back in 1994 and tells the story of a group of doctors and interns working in Chicago’s fictional County General Hospital. The series made household names of actors like George Clooney, Noah Wyle, Julianna Margulies, Anthony Edwards, and Maura Tierney. Though ER attracted over 30 million viewers at its peak, viewership has declined in later years and dropped to an average of 11.5 million last season. So far this season, the show is averaging under 10 million viewers and 4% of the 18-49 demographic — about 25% less than last year.
The expectation has been that this would be ER’s final season. Tierney has been quoted saying that she believed this was ER’s final year and producers have even been trying to lure past castmembers (like Wyle, Gloria Reuben, Eric LaSalle, and Shane West) back for one last hurrah.
The show is an expensive one to produce and the ratings don’t warrant the expense. ER is rumored to cost about $5 million an episode, approximately twice the cost of a freshman drama like ABC’s Big Shots (which has been attracting a similar number of viewers).
But, at the party celebrating the show’s 300th episode, Wells said that he’s talking to NBC execs about the medical drama returning for a 15th season. Apparently there is some concern that, if the writers’ strike continues for an extended amount of time, the show’s writers won’t have enough time to wrap up the series in a way that’s fulfilling to the creative staff and the fans. Thus far, only 13 of the season’s 22 episodes have been completed, leaving storylines unresolved.
This time of year is typically when network pilots are being developed for next season’s Fall season. If fewer pilots are written/produced because of the strike, NBC will have fewer new shows to choose from. With that in mind, NBC may be more likely to want to hold onto existing shows with moderate ratings.
If NBC does opt for another season of ER, there will likely be budget cuts. Goran Visnjic and Mekhi Phifer are expected to leave by the end of the season and Maura Tierney is likely to follow.
Still, Wells feels that there are still ER stories to be told and hopes that a deal can be reached. Could there really be a 15th season? Stay tuned!