There’s more good news for fans of ER. While the network decided to end the medical drama after 15 seasons, the execs at ratings-starved NBC want to make sure they make the most out of the show’s final run. That translates to a return visit by two of the series’ most famous alum and a few more episodes.
ER tells the tale of Chicago’s County General and a revolving door of doctors and nurses with plenty of personal and professional drama. Long-term castmembers have included Noah Wyle, Laura Innes, Laura Ceron, Maura Tierney, Deezer D, Goran Visnjic, Anthony Edwards, Yvette Freeman, Eriq La Salle, Emily Wagner, Alex Kingston, Lynn A. Henderson, Sherry Stringfield, Abraham Benrubi, Mekhi Phifer, Julianna Margulies, Paul McCrane, Lily Mariye, Troy Evans, Parminder Nagra, Ming-Na, Linda Cardellini, Conni Marie Brazelton, Montae Russell, Ellen Crawford, George Clooney, Gloria Reuben, and Scott Grimes.
It was believed that the medical drama would end last year but, because of the writers strike and an uptick in the ratings, it was decided to bring ER back for one final season. For budgetary reasons, ER’s 15th year was initially scheduled to be a 19 episode swan song but the order has been increased. In December, NBC added one additional installment and, two weeks ago, they added three more.
One of the hooks of the season was for producers to bring back past characters for the NBC drama’s final lap around the track. Thus far, we’ve seen Innes, McCrane, Edwards, and Kingston. Wylie will return in four of the final ER episodes. La Salle returned to direct an episode but didn’t appear on camera.
The producers have tried to entice Margulies and Clooney to appear but haven’t had any luck. Clooney was reportedly too busy and Margulies didn’t have any interest in reprising her old role.
Clooney left ER in February 1999 and Margulies followed in May 2000. Clooney returned for a brief scene in her final episode in which the couple reunited. The appearance was kept a secret and delighted fans. At the time, executive producer John Wells said, “We shot the 60-second scene several weeks ago in Seattle before George had to leave to promote his new Ethan and Joel Coen film at Cannes. He did the scene for scale, for old friends and for the many fans of this long-running story line. We wish Julianna all the best in her future pursuits and neither she nor George will be returning to ER again.”
Thankfully, Wells wasn’t quite correct. We’ve now learned that one of the reasons for the recent episode extension is to accommodate the return of Doctor Ross and Nurse Hathaway.
Clooney and Margulies will stop by for a brief visit in one of the show’s final installments. They’re supposedly shooting their scenes today and tomorrow on the Warner Bros lot. RadarOnline reports that only a few cast and crewmembers will be allowed on the set and cell phones will be banned. Wells will be directing the scenes. Apparently one scene will take place at a high-tech Seattle hospital while another will be in County General.
Considering how long they’ve been gone, will any of the current staff even know who they are? Remember, only a few hospital staffers have been around since the old days!
The final episode of ER is scheduled to air on April 2nd and a one-hour retrospective will precede it. Which will attract more viewers — Clooney’s and Margulies’ return or the series finale?
Image courtesy NBC.