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Index[Diary]ニュース(2004-2008) 【ER】S15シーズンプレミアComing soon... 

【ER】S15シーズンプレミアComing soon...

一番早い東海岸でもあと1時間ほどで放送が始まるS15のシーズンプレミア。スポイラーである程度の覚悟はでいているが、見る勇気が持てない。

そんなS15シーズンプレミアに関しての記事がいろいろと。キャストやスタッフのインタビューが多くある。その中でもTV Guide.comに掲載されていた集合写真。6人に始まり、6人に終わるER。右端がAngela Bassett演じる新しいER部長のバンフィールド。その隣がS14後半から出演しているDavid Lyonsアンスポーの甥ブレンナー(ブレナー?)が集合写真からしてレギュラークレジット昇格かも。

他に、1994年番組開始時の新聞記事など興味深いものも⇒
今までシーズンプレミアの前にNBC内のERサイトのSCを掲載してきたが、今回はいまだ変わっていない。

関連

【ER】復帰? それとも……(日本語記事含)(2008.09.24)
【ER】Anthony Edwardsリターンインタビュー(2008.09.19)
【ER】Anthony Edwardsリターン(日本語記事)(2008.09.06)
【ER】Anthony Edwardsリターン(日本語記事含)(2008.09.05)
【ER】Courtney B. Vance出演決定(2008.08.19)
【ER】Angela Bassettのバーター(2008.08.15)
【ER】Shane Westゲスト出演回数他(2008.08.14)
【ER】Maura TiernryのS15出演話数他(2008.08.11)
【ER】Shane Westに関するスクープ?(2008.08.06)
【ER】Shane Westゲスト出演決定(2008.08.01)
【ER】Laura Innesも戻ってくる?(2008.07.31)
【ER】ウェイド姉弟ではなくウェイド兄妹(日本語記事)(2008.06.30)
【ER】シーズン15、インターンキャストはレギュラー(日本語記事)(2008.06.18)
【ER】シーズン15のインターンキャスト決定(2008.06.17)
【ER】JWの今後(日本語記事含)(2008.06.17)
【ER】シーズン15シーズンプレミア(2008.05.24)
【ER】Eriq La Salleのシーズン15に関して(2008.05.19)
【ER】ファイナルシーズンに向けてカウントダウン開始(2008.05.14)
【ER】Angela Bassettシーズン15レギュラー(日本語記事)20080502(2008.05.02)
【ER】Angela Bassettシーズン15レギュラー(日本語記事)(2008.04.30)
【ER】Angela Bassettシーズン15レギュラー(2008.04.29)
【ER】Mekhi Phifer降板(2008.04.29)
【ER】Mekhi Phifer "Hunter's Moon"(2008.04.27)
【ER】シーズン15に関して20080410【memo】(2008.04.10)
【ER】シーズン15に関して20080410(2008.04.10)
【ER】シーズン15に関して20080409(2008.04.09)
【ER】シーズン15正式決定(日本語記事)(2008.04.04)
【ER】シーズン15正式発表(2008.04.03)
【ER】シーズン15に関して20080327(日本語記事)(2008.03.27)
【ER】シーズン15に関して(日本語記事)(2008.03.16)
【ER】シーズン15に関して20080314(2008.03.14)
【ER】シーズン15決定か(2008.02.21)
【ER】シーズン15の行方(日本語記事)(2007.11.07)
【ER】シーズン15の行方(2007.11.06)
【ER】S15 Spoilers 09-10(2008.09.24)
【ER】S15 Spoilers 07-08(2008.09.08)
【ER】S15 Spoilers 06(2008.08.14)
【ER】S15 Spoilers 05(2008.07.31)
【ER】S15 Spoilers 01-04(2008.06.22)

Daily News Deja Vu: 'ER'
The doctors are still in.

NBC's "ER" enters its 15th and final season on Thursday at 10 p.m. -not bad for a television show critics thought was much weaker than CBS' medical drama "Chicago Hope," which also debuted in the fall of '94.

In the Sept. 22, 1994, Daily News, Eric Mink wrote about the two new shows, which aired head to head in what he called "The Battle of the Network Chicago Hospital Medical Shows."

The critic praised "ER's" pilot, but said that its first regular episode "dissolves into the kind of routine, predictable, sloppily detailed medical drama we've seen many times before."

On the other hand, Mink wrote that "Chicago Hope" featured "uncommonly complicated characters and provocative story lines."

But "ER" became known for its impressive cast, most notably breakout star George Clooney. Even then, the actor, who at the time was best known for his not-so-memorable work on such sitcoms as "Roseanne," "The Facts of Life" and "Baby Talk," was philosophical about fame.

In The News of Oct. 30, 1994, Clooney said that thanks to the career struggles of his aunt, singer Rosemary Clooney, he was aware "fame can be a short-lived thing," and that "one day you're no longer hot and all those people telling you you were so great won't even give you a job."

"ER" helped make Clooney a superstar, but it wasn't his first time acting in a hospital-based show - he co-starred in a similarly named comedy, "E/R," a decade before.

"Here I am again in another series set in the ER of another Chicago hospital," Clooney told The News. "Let's hope this one goes on for a bit longer!"

* * *

Now the battle begins for real.

On Sunday, CBS aired the pilot for the news medical drama, "Chicago Hope," in a special time slot following "60 Minutes." Monday night, NBC unveiled the two-hour pilot of its medical drama "E.R."

Tonight, the two shows go head-to-head at 10 o'clock in their regular one-hour formats in what might be called the Battle of the Network Chicago Hospital Medical Shows.

More interesting that the competitive angle - that's just network executives weaseling around for ratings points - are the creative comparisons afforded by broadcast of the series' first regular-season episodes.

Pilots, after all, are basically sales pitches that suggest a series' potential in charactet, tone, setting and emotional range. When the actual season rolls around, things can change.

The pilot for "E.R," for example, was written by author Michael Crichton. Although he's credited as an executive producer, his day-to-day contributions are expected to be limited. Responsiblity for the show falls, instead, on "China Beach" veteran John Wells, who wrote tonight's episode.

David E. Kelley, perhaps the best drama writer working in television, conceived "Chicago Hope" and wrote the pilot script and tonight's episode. As the season proceeds, he'll be dividing his efforts between "Chicago Hope" and "Picket Fences."

The pilots for these two shows fell close to each other on the quality scale.

"E.R." was urban, emergency room chaos and yound, committed doctors. "Chicago Hope" was bigger-than-life characters and stories, an all-star cast and gleaming high-tech medicine.

Tonight, though, it's not even a contest. With its first one-hour episode, the great promise of the "E.R." pilot dissolves into the kind of routine, predictable, sloppily detailed medical drama we've seen many times before. It's good, but not great.

"Chicago Hope," on the other hand, sails even more aggressively into the uncharted waters it naviagated somewhat rockily in it s pilot, challenging us with uncommonly complicated characters and provocative story lines.

Two pairs of similar scenes offer dramatic contrast. In tonight's "E.R.", a distraught husband tries to emphasize the humanity of his dying wife to the attending doctors. "She has 13 grandchildren," he says. "I just thought you should know."

Compare that with a quiet, suble scene in the "Chicago Hope" pilot in which a man about to undergo brain surgery, trying to emphasize his own humanity, asks his doctor to look through phtoos in a family album he has brought with him to the hospital.

And tonight's "Chicago Hope" jumps off the screen with an almost shocking scene in which Many Patinkin's character, an arrogant heart surgeon, exploits a man's grief to obtain permission to use the body of his wife, who dies only moments earlier. In an artificial- heart experiment. Compare that with the bland organ-donation scene in tonight's "E.R."

"E.R" seems certain to outpoint its competitor in the Nielsen charts, but as bold, adventurous drame, "Chicago Hope" has pulled way out in front.

Deja view for Doug Ross: This is his 2nd time in a show called 'E.R.'

By Kevin O'Sullivan

This article originally ran in the October 30, 1994 edition of the New York Daily News

The call to play one of the lead roles in a big new TV hospital drama called "ER" had a familiar ring for George Clooney. In fact, it gave the 33-year-old actor a serious case of deja vu.

Twelve years ago, as a young hopeful who had just arrived in Hollywood, Clooney got his early breakthrough...in a show named "ER."

"It's kind of weird - but it's true," laughs Clooney as he relaxes in his trailer during a filming break on NBC's latest and hottest hit.

"It was a sitcom with Elliott Gould and Jason Alexander set in the emergency room of a Chicago hospital.

"It had a great cast and it was a good show - but it only lasted one season.

"So here I am again in another series set in the ER of another Chicago hospital...let's hope this one goes on for a bit longer!"

There's little doubt of that. The new "ER" is the jewel in NBC's crown - soariing to number three in the ratings and becoming essential Thursday night far for millions.

No one could blame Clooney for heaving a sight of relief that as "ER"'s dashing Dr. Doug Ross, stardom is finally beckoning to him.

He reveals: "I've put in my time. I've done a lot of pilots, a lot a shows and I've had many opportunities...but until now everything has fallen just short.

"Believe me, I've done a lot of bad shows. And I've put in a lot of bad performances.

"Sometimes I was good - more often than not I wasn't!"

After arriving in Los Angeles from his home town of August, Ky., one of his first roles was a regular on "Roseanne."

It was the kind of high-profile any ambitious young actor would kill for.

But George soon tired of playing second fiddle...and quit.

Then Clooney drifted from one series to another - starring in short-lived shows like "Sunset Beat," and "Bodies of Evidence." But he had high hopes when two years ago he landed a lead role on "Baby Talk" - an eagerly awaiting sitcom based on the hit "Look Who's Talking" movies.

But instead of it being his passport to the big time, the ill-fated series soon became a one-way ticket to disaster.

He shudders as he says: "Baby Talk was the unhappiest time of my professional life.

"I was miserable - I was in such a bad state I ended up with bleeding ulcers."

Now Clooney and his "E.R." co-stars Anthony Edwards, Sherry Stringfield, Noah Wyle, Julianna Marguilles and Eriq La Salle are preparing for the full force of TV stardom.

As the son of broadcaster Nick Clooney, the handsome actor is no stranger to fame. His aunt is singer Rosemary Clooney - and his uncle was actor Jose Ferrer.

He says: "I suspect that 'ER' might well make the cast famous. But that's not that big a deal for me - everyone in my family's famous!

"So I have a big advantage over other people in this position in that I've already learned about fame.

"And you shouldn't take it too seriously.

"My Aunt Rosemary was on the cover of Time Magazine in 1951. By 195, people were saying, 'Who's Rosemary Clooney?'

"She didn't lose any talent over that period dof time - it's just that fame can be a short-lived thing.

"You've got to be self-sufficient when you get to a certain level of stardom and not buy all the crap.

"Because when you're hot no one is going to tell you the truth 0 they just keep telling you you're great.

"Then one day you're no longer hot and all those people telling you you were so great won't even give you a job."

Clooney is fast emerging as "ER's" number-one hartthrob. "Ross" relieves the pressure of treating the sick by knockinig quantities of booze that no doctor would ever recommend.

He is also deeply in love with head nurse Carol Hathaway - played by Julianna Marguilies.

In real life, Clooney is single but attached. "I have been seeing a girl for some time," he says. "And it's great because she's not an actress. My actress-dating days are over.

"When I started out, I was always going out with actresses. But I learned that two actors under the same roof can be a little bit too much.

"Now I work with them...and that's it."
(NY Daily News)-Saturday, September 20th 2008

‘ER’ docs ready to hang up their scrubs
Just like everyone else watching at the time, Parminder Nagra was enamored with “ER” when the landmark medical drama began in 1994. Yet, unlike many, it wasn’t George Clooney’s Dr. Ross who first caught her eye.

“Anthony (Edwards) was my favorite,” said Nagra, who is about to begin her sixth season as Dr. Neela Rasgotra. “He was at the hospital all the time and having problems with women. The one person always on the floor was Anthony.”

In a television era where initial bad ratings can mean cancellation after only a few weeks, “ER” is set to close out a remarkable 15-season run next spring. The premiere episode of the final season airs Sept. 25 on NBC.

It’s hard to imagine that it has been a decade and a half since the likes of Drs. Ross, Carter, Benton, Lewis, Greene and Nurse Hathaway roamed the hallways and patched up patients. While many shows would’ve been unable to recover from so many cast changes ― none of the original six (Edwards, Clooney, Eriq La Salle, Sherry Stringfield, Noah Wyle, Juliana Margulies) are around anymore ― making the story the number-one priority gave “ER” an incredibly sustainable run.

“Initially, there was a lot of fear,” says exec producer and in-house director Chris Chulack. “George left after five years and Tony’s character died in year seven, but John (Wells, executive producer) and I talked about it. We knew it was a healthy move and we were enthused to find new characters and had people waiting in the wings to take over. It kept the show fresh.”

Chulack, who has been with the show since the beginning, recalls that from day one the actors developed a strong camaraderie. It was a matter of necessity. The cast was dealing with a frantic production schedule ― a typical 75-page script was shot in seven days ― and learning to work with a Steadicam camera, mostly unheard of for episodic television at the time. The Steadicam on "ER" was used out of necessity because of the show’s famous “oners,” where the camera moves around the hospital capturing a long scene without a single break.

“It was very demanding for the cast to act like doctors. It was very intense,” says Chulack. “George and Tony were the leaders. They kept everything on an even keel.”

Will Clooney return?
“ER” almost didn’t make it on the air. NBC was extremely hesitant about putting on a series that was so different to what else was on the air at the time. "ER" showcased the flaws and foibles of the doctors, not putting them on pedestals ― this was not your father's "Marcus Welby, M.D." Only the passion of then-Warner Bros. president Leslie Moonves and terrific audience testing gave the network the confidence to schedule the show in the 10 p.m. Thursday slot.

Although the original six would eventually leave ― Wyle stayed the longest, co-starring in 249 episodes ―additions of folks such as Maura Tierney, Laura Innes, Goran Visnjic, Alex Kingston, Paul McCrane, Ming Na, Gloria Reuben and Linda Cardellini, among others, brought a sense of continuity and great comfort to both viewers and the cast.

Nagra finds it hard to believe that she’s been on the show as long as she has, and has to do a double-take when thinking about the legacy of the show.

“We’ve had a pretty good run, eh?” she asks. “I remember watching the show as a fan week after week, and I couldn’t breathe from the beginning to the end. There was such a great energy and pace. I was hooked into the characters.”

Now, viewers ― many of whom haven’t missed a single episode ― feel that same connection, and Nagra knows it’s not going to be easy to say goodbye.

“People have grown up with the show and it’s part of their lives,” she explained. “They’ve seen their favorite characters come and go. For me, it’s a very strange feeling. Now I’m playing the surgical resident who has an intern and I’m balling him out just like Noah (Wyle) did to me. To be the person doing that is very strange.”

As the season rolls along, actors from years past will return. Edwards makes an appearance on the Nov. 13 episode, and the rumors of a Clooney visit to County General have yet to be ruled out.

Both Nagra and Chulack agree that this season feels different on the set, knowing the end is near.

Said Chulack: “I have mixed emotions. This is my family and I’m nostalgic for all we’ve done here, but I think it’s time for it to go.”
(MSNBC)-Sept. 21, 2008

ER takes a graceful bow in 15th season
The lights have yet to go out on Stage 11. When they do, though, John Wells admits it will be a bittersweet moment. For 14 years, ER has moved an entire generation of TV viewers to laughter, anger and tears. That's not something you walk away from lightly, but Wells - who co- created ER with novelist Michael Crichton in 1994 - feels the time is right to pull the plug.

"We're walking away for sentimental reasons more than for story reasons," Wells said quietly, in an interview with Canwest News. "We've been doing this for a long time in the same place with a lot of the same people. We've been together for 20 years and there's the feeling that, rather than retool it again, it's time to take a graceful bow."

Stage 11, one of the oldest sound stages on one of Hollywood's oldest studio lots, has been home to some of Warner Bros.'s most culturally defining films and TV shows of their time, from the 1933 musical 42nd Street to Casablanca in 1942. Stage 11 was home to TV's The Streets of San Francisco in 1972 and the Academy Award winning film All the President's Men in 1976.

Since 1994, though, Stage 11 has been home to the fictional doctors and nurses of County General Hospital in Cook County, Chicago. ER holds the record for most Emmy nominations for a single program, with 122. ER punted George Clooney's acting career into the stratosphere, and boosted the careers of innumerable others, including Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies, Eriq La Salle and Toronto-born Gloria Reuben and Michael Ironside.

This season, ER's 15th, will be its last. It returns Thursday with a new chief of medicine, played by Angela Bassett. Maura Tierney and Goran Visnjic will return for several episodes before leaving for good. The main cast will once again revolve around Mekhi Phifer, Parminder Nagra and Linda Cardellini. The glory years of Clooney, Edwards, Sherry Stringfield, La Salle and Margulies are long gone, though. Wells says Edwards' Dr. Mark Greene will return in time for the series finale in late February, in a flashback. (Edwards' character died of an inoperable brain tumour at the end of ER's eighth season, in 2002.)

ER was originally intended to be a feature film - Crichton based his original script on his own experiences as a medical student. At the time, Crichton was working on a novel about dinosaurs and DNA called Jurassic Park. When filmmaker Steven Spielberg learned about Crichton's project, he dropped what he was doing and decided to make Jurassic Park as a movie.

Spielberg later learned about Crichton's other project, ER, and briefly considered it as a feature film, before deciding to help develop it as a TV series instead. Wells, who had served as producer and writer of the Vietnam-era medical drama China Beach, signed on as ER's head writer, senior executive producer and show runner.

Wells is still in regular contact with Crichton.

"I talk to him all the time, and we've had a lot fun," Wells said. "He's very involved. He still reads (the scripts) and talks to me about it. We had a show that we didn't think was going to make it, and it lasted 15 years. It's hard to think of a better experience than that."

The fictional ER has always been at the forefront of the real-life fight for health-care reform in the U.S., as TV historian and culture critic Steven Stark noted in his 1997 book Glued to the Set: The 60 Television Shows and Events That Made Us Who We Are Today.

"I would like to think we had some effect," Wells said. "I don't think you can point to any specific policy change that we helped effect. But we reached a lot of people - average, everyday working people. We've reached a crucial time now in our national dialogue where, as so often happens in America, economics have become so dire that the health-care system is once again at the forefront of an election campaign. I think there will be some changes. I certainly hope so."

Goodbyes are never easy, Wells admitted.

"The mood is good, though. We work in an industry where most people are freelancers, and this is the longest job they've had by, like, 15 years. Everybody's a little sad. We've known for a long time that it was coming, so that makes it a little easier. And we'll always have the memories of what it was like to be together for such a long period of time. That doesn't happen often in this business, and so when it does it's precious."

Wells cautions ER fans, devotees and shut-ins not to expect a spinoff.

"I'm proud of what we've done with ER, and I've always been reluctant to tamper with that in any way," Wells said. "In the early days, there were these constant conversations from the network about whether we should do a spinoff. There was a lot of - I don't want to say pressure - let's say, interest, from NBC that we do what CSI did and have ER: Seattle and ER: Miami. Michael Crichton's attitude was always that we had a good show, so why would we want to dilute it? I've honoured that over time, and I always thought that was the wise choice. I'm not about to change now that it's time for us to go."
(Canada.com)-Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New, old faces part of "ER's" prescription for final season
In 1994, the year "ER" came racing down the hallway and bursting onto our television screens, Hillary Clinton was the first lady. Gas sold for just over a dollar a gallon. No one had an iPod wired to their ears. And George Clooney had yet to sprout that very weird beard.

The times indeed have changed. And perhaps no other megahit show has ever weathered change as well as "ER," which launches its 15th and final season at 10 p.m. on NBC Thursday.

One by one they departed Chicago's County General Hospital: Sherry Stringfield, Clooney, Eriq LaSalle, Julianna Margulies, Anthony Edwards ... And yet, "ER," with all its chaos and calamity, remained a ratings juggernaut longer than it really had a right to.

"When Sherry was leaving [in Season 3], we thought, 'Oh well, here it comes. We'll be gone by Year 5,' " executive producer John Wells told reporters on the Warner Bros. set of the show. "But I think [viewers] are tied into the world and the characters, and we were able to successfully introduce characters slowly so that we didn't have to have actors come in and replace someone. They became integrated in a way that a real workplace works: People come, and you care about them. They're friends. They leave. Other people replace them and become your friends."

You might think that the show would at least stand pat for its farewell tour, but no: There are more "friends" joining the mix. Chief among them is Angela Bassett, who plays Cate Banfield, the new tough-minded head honcho of the ER, who won't exactly be feeling the love early on.

"I think she's a very good boss with very high standards," Bassett says of the character. "But she's the new person in the room, and there's some folks that are not able to appreciate her style. You know, she's trying to bring up the level around here ― the level of excellence ― and she's butting heads with different personalities."

Bassett won't be the only newcomer. Producers have said that by Episode 2, the ER will feature four new interns, played by Victor Rasuk, Emily Rose, Shiri Appleby and Julian Morris. In addition, Bassett's real-life husband, Courtney B. Vance, will join the cast later in the season as, yes, her husband.

But longtime devotees of the series undoubtedly are more interested in which former cast members might return for one last hurrah before the show leaves the airwaves in February. To that end, Noah Wyle's Dr. Carter will be back for four episodes, including the finale.

"We had always planned that the end of the series would involve Noah returning," Wells said. "He was so central as a new character at the very beginning [of the show] ― an entering character growing up in the ER."

In addition, Shane West's Dr. Ray Barnett, who left the show two years ago after losing both legs in a horrendous accident, will come strolling back into the ER on artificial limbs.

"He's actually gone through this terrible period and come out on the other side," says co-executive producer David Zabel. "And it's sort of a heroic return in a lot of ways. It's very sweet also."

On the other hand, if you desire a Clooney sighting, don't hold your breath.

"I was very proud of the way in which we ended the Hathaway-Ross story," said Wells. "That's one I feel was wrapped up sort of beautifully in a way that was great for the audience and everyone feels good about it. I would worry about doing something that unwound that dramatically in any way."
(The Seattle Time.com)-Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Everything's Life or Death on ER's Final Season
Even for ER (premiering Thursday, Sept. 25 at 10 pm/ET, NBC), the send-off of rock-and-roll doc Ray Barnett (Shane West) a couple seasons back was disquieting (and this in a show that dispatched one character via falling helicopter). Drunk and reeling from his unrequited love affair with one-time roommate Neela (Parminder Nagra), Barnett lost both legs after a close encounter with a truck. "That was a shock to everybody," Nagra says. "Most of all Shane, I think."

So just imagine the reaction when Ray comes walking back this October. Clearly, ER, in its 15th and final season, has no intention of going out quietly. The season premiere picks up from last season's cliff-hanger, in which doctors Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) and Abby (Maura Tierney), along with nurse Sam (Linda Cardellini), were well within body-bagging distance of an exploding ambulance. Think ER wouldn't kill 'em off? Rumors have Phifer, Tierney and Goran Visnjic (Luka) leaving the show early.

The only thing certain, says exec producer David Zabel, is that by Episode 2, there'll be five new cast members. "Angela Bassett comes in very strong as the new chief of the ER, Cate Banfield," Zabel says. "Her backstory is going to involve being haunted by things from the past." Four new interns will be played by Victor Rasuk (Lords of Dogtown), Emily Rose (Brothers & Sisters), Shiri Appleby (Roswell) and Julian Morris (Cry Wolf). And in one of the more intriguing bits of casting, Courtney B. Vance, Bassett's real-life husband, will join the cast later this season playing, yes, her husband.

But even that might get overshadowed as the show hopes to recruit some series veterans for one last hurrah. (We'd suggest not getting your Clooney hopes up too high, though). Noah Wyle's Dr. Carter is already signed on for four appearances, and West's Ray walks back (on prosthetic legs) during a Halloween episode. Says Nagra, "Ray comes back at a time when Neela needs some direction."

And what of John Stamos? Is he in line for one of ER's patented send-offs?

"Well, I guess it depends on how I behave this year," Stamos jokes, "but I don't think they're gonna kill me off. There's gonna be nobody left for the last episode!"
(TV Guide.com)-Thursday, September 25, 2008

Through it all, 'ER' won her heart
When "ER" begins its final season tonight at 10 on NBC, I will be where I have been most fall Thursdays at that hour since 1994: parked on my couch, engrossed in the soapy goings-on in the Cook County General emergency room and hoping I don't share any symptoms with that episode's patients.

Over the course of its 15-year run and umpteen cast changes, the show may have fallen out of favor with many viewers, Emmy voters, and TV critics, but I've never been able to kick the habit.

Like most long-term relationships, my love affair with the long-running medical drama hasn't always been perfect. After the giddy high of that first season, when we were both still young and George Clooney was just starting to work his head-down, eyebrows-up magic, the show settled into familiar patterns, and the passion waxed and waned like a ventilator.

Sometimes things got messy - explosions, hostage takings, ill-conceived love affairs - and I was embarrassed by my devotion. Occasionally I was tempted by something new and shiny. Most significantly I ran off to whoop it up with my friends at "Lost" when ABC moved the island to 10 on Thursdays. There was no way another out-of-control whirlybird story line could compete with an exotic smoke monster, intricate plotting, and the testosterone-fueled firepower of Naveen Andrews and Josh Holloway.

I may have been unfaithful, but I never abandoned "ER" completely. I would just slink back to it on VHS or in my DVR, admittedly on a night when I had nothing better to do than listen distractedly to the same old stories while I paid the bills or folded the laundry.

"ER" came to the small screen with a lofty pedigree. The pilot script sprang from the mind of novelist and former medical student Michael Crichton ("Jurassic Park") and was produced by Steven Spielberg. Cast with mostly unknowns ("Top Gun"/"Revenge of the Nerds" star Anthony Edwards excepted), the series debuted to rave reviews and created an instant star out of the previously struggling Clooney.

What made the show special was its breakneck pace and ability to show doctors navigating between their intense work and equally intense private lives. During its run the series has earned more Emmy nominations - a hefty 122 - than any other show.

Alas, times changed and my devotion to "ER" got more exclusive. As the original stars exited through those ambulance-bay doors, fewer viewers tuned in. But I kept defending the show's dependability and flashes of brilliance.

Somewhere around season 6, "ER" began to put on weight - to be fair so did I - taking on cast members with varying degrees of charm. Some, I loved. (Hello Goran Visnjic as sexy-yet-tortured Croatian medicine man Dr. Luka Kovac!) Some I was happy to see stabbed. (Goodbye Kellie Martin as incredibly irritating medical student Lucy Knight!) Some, like Linda Cardellini's nurse Sam Taggart, brought youth and attitude. Some, like John Leguizamo's Victor Clemente, brought the crazy.

Through the years the show took me for granted, recycling plotlines as if I wouldn't notice. (Another prickly ER chief? Really?) It also tried to shock me into paying attention with increasingly naked bids to ignite the original spark. But no matter how many times the ER blew up, I returned to see how they would pick up the pieces.

But by season 11, I'll be honest, I was just going through the motions. And when young doctors Neela and Gallant married, Gallant shipped off to war, returned for a minute and then was killed - well I'm not sure I ever fully forgave the writers.

Yet there I was, watching all of those breathlessly promoted "most dramatic" or "most powerful" episodes. Mainly because every season had a fresh or affecting story line, the return of a familiar face, or strong guest-star performance from the likes of Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, or John Mahoney.

In truth, the main reason I stayed was Maura Tierney. As we watched her go from Nurse Abby to Dr. Lockhart, climb on and fall off the wagon, and get in and out of bed with Luka, Carter, Luka again, and Stanley Tucci's Dr. Moretti, Tierney turned in a fierce, committed performance that was always grounded in reality even when the show wasn't.

She nailed the messy life of a working mother in a difficult relationship with her husband, peers, and alcohol. That Tierney never won an Emmy will be the series' most unfortunate postscript.

Tierney is saying her goodbyes early in this 19-episode final season, but I'll keep watching until the end. Some of the old characters are returning for a swan song, while a few new ones check in. (Next up: Angela Bassett as this season's, you guessed it, prickly ER chief.)

From "M*A*S*H" to "Quincy" to "Scrubs" to "House," I've always enjoyed a medical mystery on TV. But with "ER," in particular, I appreciated why so many different kinds of people feel a calling to medicine. (It also helped provide insight into my mother's job as a nurse.) Even when the show hit rough patches, the staff at County General could be counted on to try and make us feel better.

After 15 seasons I can't stop watching until the show flatlines forever.
(The Boston Globe)-September 25, 2008

"ER" Premieres For Its Final Season
BURBANK, Calif. - Outside, the dingy parking bay is a stop on the Warner Bros. studio lot tour, where visitors can see how they make Chicago snow and rain fall from the Southern California skies.

Inside, the institutional dinginess, utilitarian tile floors and clutter are so realistic that a visitor might yank a men's room door before realizing it's part of the set of the longest-lasting prime-time hospital drama on TV.

The 15th and final season of "ER" begins tonight on NBC, and among its tasks are to clean up from an ambulance explosion that capped last season's farewell, one of more than 1,500 tales it has told over the years.

"It kind of makes me tired to think about it, how much work it's been," executive producer John Wells tells reporters on a set visit that ended the July press tour. "But, yeah, it's been a great run with a wonderful cast, and we've been very proud that we've been able to keep the quality of actors and storytelling."

Just the number of stories it will have told in 15 years is dizzying, says executive producer and show runner David Zabel.

"Just say we're carrying six stories in an episode, six story lines. Well, that times 300-some odd episodes, I can't even do that math. I would need a calculator. It's just a lot of stories," Zabel says.

They begin to blur after a while.

"There's no question that we're doing stories that are reminiscent of other stories," Zabel says. "But what we're always trying to do is say, 'How can we tell the story differently just on an objective level?'"

One new way has been to introduce new characters, which they'll do again this season when Angela Bassett joins the cast as Dr. Cate Banfield.

"It was a show I always enjoyed," Bassett says. "I knew they had a standard of excellence."

Besides, she had kept an eye on the show since the earliest season when "one of my dear friends," Hartford native Eriq La Salle, was part of the cast. "I know he had a great time, and many other friends had been on the show and done fine work."

Bassett plays the attending physician in charge of the County General Hospital emergency room, regularly battered by disasters and high drama.

"I'm the boss," Bassett says. "She has very high standards, but she's the new person.

"And there's some folks that are not able to appreciate her style."

Internal friction has helped keep "ER" going since it bowed in the fall of 1994, back when other new shows on the roster included "Party of Five," "The Cosby Mysteries" and, coincidentally, "Chicago Hope."

It was unusual to have two hospital dramas on the schedule; there hadn't been a solid one on TV since "St. Elsewhere" went off the air in 1988. Doctors, in fact, were in short supply. "Doogie Howser, M.D." had ended its run the season before; it was the final season of "Northern Exposure," if you consider that quirky Alaskan ensemble piece a doctor show.

And here, zipping down halls, crashing through emergency room doors, doctors yelling arcane medical terms all the way, was all the excitement of hospital drama amped up in double time.

Constantly Revolving Cast
"ER" had the cachet of being created by Michael Crichton, the novelist whose popular works involving science had resulted in "The Andromeda Strain" and "Jurassic Park."

The show also had an appealing, widely unknown cast whose interpersonal relations kept things humming at County General Hospital in Chicago even when the patients weren't pouring in.

Cast members of those original episodes ― Anthony Edwards, Sherry Stringfield, Juliana Margulies, Noah Wyle, Eriq La Salle and, especially, George Clooney ― have gone on to wider careers, Clooney to Oscar-winning success.

Like "Law & Order" and other long-lasting procedural dramas, "ER" reinvigorated itself with a constantly revolving central cast, which has also included Laura Innes, Erik Palladino, Kellie Martin and Gloria Reuben over the years.

Its current cast includes Goran Visnjic, Maura Tierney, Mekhi Phifer, Parminder Nagra, Linda Cardinelli and John Stamos.

For the final season, Wells says, "We're bringing a number of things to a conclusion. We had a series of the story lines and things that we wanted to do."

And he has been thinking about it for a long time. Wells says he began planning the final shows sometime in the sixth season, assuming that the show would end after the eighth season. "I still have those notes," he says. "They've gotten a little old and smudged. But one of the reasons Noah Wyle is coming back at the very end is we had always planned that the end of the series would involve Noah returning because he was so central as a new character at the very beginning, an entering character growing up in the E.R. So we pulled out those old notes and came out with a lot of new things."

There will be an effort to get all of the featured cast back for the final season, one way or another, even Edwards' Dr. Greene, who died in season eight but will be back in a flashbacks during November sweeps. The only one still to get is the biggest: Clooney.

And while some seasons have been marked with spectacular in-hospital explosions and a helicopter crash, "ER" won't end in flames, Wells says. "The idea is that it goes on."

ER begins its final season tonight at 10 on NBC, locally WVIT, Channel 30.
(Hartford Courant)-September 25, 2008

Barney: 'ER' preparing to flatline
In 1994, the year "ER" came racing down the hallway and bursting onto our television screens, Hillary Clinton was the first lady. Gas sold for just over a dollar a gallon. No one had an iPod wired to their ears. And George Clooney had yet to sprout that very weird beard.

The times indeed have changed. And perhaps no other mega-hit show has ever weathered change as well as "ER," which launches its 15th and final season on NBC tonight.

One by one they departed Chicago's County General Hospital: Sherry Stringfield, Clooney, Eriq LaSalle, Julianna Margulies, Anthony Edwards And yet, "ER," with all its chaos and calamity, remained a ratings juggernaut longer than it really had a right to.

"When Sherry was leaving (in Season 3), we thought, 'Oh well, here it comes. We'll be gone by Year 5,'" executive producer John Wells told reporters on the Warner Bros. set of the show. "But I think (viewers) are tied into the world and the characters, and we were able to successfully introduce characters slowly so that we didn't have to have actors come in and replace someone. They became integrated in a way that a real workplace works: People come and you care about them. They're friends. They leave. Other people replace them and become your friends."

You might think that the show would at least stand pat for its farewell tour, but no: There are more "friends" joining the mix. Chief among them is Angela Bassett, who plays Cate Banfield, the new tough-minded head honcho of the ER, who won't exactly be feeling the love early on.

"I think she's a very good boss with very high standards," Bassett says of the character. "But she's the new person in the room, and there's some folks that are not able to appreciate her style. You know, she's trying to bring up the level around here -- the level of excellence -- and she's butting heads with different personalities."

Bassett won't be the only newcomer. Producers have said that by Episode 2, the ER will feature four new interns, played by Victor Rasuk, Emily Rose, Shiri Appleby and Julian Morris. In addition, Bassett's real-life husband, Courtney B. Vance, will join the cast later in the season as, yes, her husband.

But longtime devotees of the series undoubtedly are more interested in which former cast members might return for one last hurrah before the show leaves the airwaves in February. To that end, Noah Wyle's Dr. Carter will be back for four episodes, including the finale.

"We had always planned that the end of the series would involve Noah returning," Wells said. "He was so central as a new character at the very beginning (of the show) -- an entering character growing up in the ER."

In addition, Shane West's Dr. Ray Barnett, who left the show two years ago after losing both legs in a horrendous accident, will come strolling back into the ER on artificial limbs.

"He's actually gone through this terrible period and come out on the other side," says co-executive producer David Zabel. "And it's sort of a heroic return in a lot of ways. It's very sweet also."

On the other hand, if you desire a Clooney sighting, don't hold your breath.

"I was very proud of the way in which we ended the Hathaway-Ross story," said Wells. "That's one I feel was wrapped up sort of beautifully in a way that was great for the audience and everyone feels good about it. I would worry about doing something that unwound that dramatically in any way."

MORE DRAMA AND TRAUMA: "Grey's Anatomy," the hospital soap that has eclipsed "ER" in ratings and buzz, returns tonight with a compelling two-hour opener (9 p.m., Channels 7 and 10) that has Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) considering whether to ask Derek (Patrick Dempsey) to move in with her. But you know all about our angst-laden heroine: She's frets that a "happily ever after" just isn't possible.

Meanwhile, Kevin McKidd ("Journeyman") shows up at Seattle Grace, playing a dashing Army doctor who makes an almost immediate connection with Cristina (Sandra Oh). Anyone who has seen McKidd in action on "Rome" and "Journeyman" knows how charismatic this Scottish actor is. He should make a great addition to the show.

But just don't give him a "Mc-" nickname (i.e.: McDreamy, McSteamy), please.
(Contra Costa Times)-09/25/2008

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