Congrats to NBC for their impressive final episode of the long-running medical series ER, which aired last night. Somewhere over 16 million viewers tuned in for the episode, which brought back former series star Noah Wyle to offer a sentimental wrap-up to the popular show which has lasted for fifteen seasons.
It's always feels like an important milestone when a long-lived series ends, and ER has a lot to be proud of, including being NBC's top drama for many years and proving once again that medical dramas never lose their fascination for audiences. If I may confess, I've never been a fan of the current crop of soap opera doctor shows, and I'm afraid that ER never was my cup of tea, but congrats for a job long and well done, NBC and ER!
As for lists putting it as one of TV's best series ever...well, the people making those lists often have very short memories and usually don't like to go beyond their own viewing lifetimes. In terms of medical dramas, I'd put the very adult Ben Casey from the 1960s right up there, and even The Bold Ones from NBC's own nearly-distant past. There's no shortage of good medical shows to choose from. I'd say ER ranks about with Medical Center, and that's a compliment, by the way.
Unfortunately, like many super-popular soapy dramas, the prospect for continued cultural relevance is probably very low. Shows like ER don't repeat worth a darn -- ask me how thrilled I was when as head of Programming at the network-which-must-not-be-named the show was foisted on us as an inter-company buy, and for a pretty penny, and nobody but us programming people knew it wasn't going to work for us. Sure, we were the grumpy ones, but we were right. Soon the expensive show was being run off in morning slots, where it still plays, I believe. Trust me on this, "Important" dramas don't work in reruns. Never. Ever. That doesn't mean you don't make them, or even run them, but don't look for a long tail in syndication life or ratings commensurate to their network fame.
So it's goodbye to ER, at least in first-run. For those of you who missed the episode and want to watch it on television like a real viewer, it's repeating this Saturday night at 8pm. Check out NBC on the web for a very elaborate and well-done site on the show.