Hugs, back slaps and "this was the best show I ever worked on" testimonials were flowing Saturday night during the "ER" finale party at Social Hollywood.
You couldn't escape the emotion in the room for all of the cast and production staffers who have collectively labored so long and so lovingly on the Warner Bros. TV series. You also couldn't escape the feeling that the party, and next week's two-hour finale ("And In the End"), marks the curtain-drop on an era for primetime network television that will never be replicated, not in today's bazillion-channel, multiplatform universe.
Steven Spielberg, whose Amblin Television banner helped birth "ER" lo those many years ago was among those feeling it on Saturday. He was incredibly humble about his involvement with the show ("I wandered in every now and then") but evinced obvious pride his association with such a landmark of the smallscreen. (And BTW, if you don't think the 1994-95 television season was a long time ago check out those baby faces in pic posted below from March 1995.)
"There will never be a show as dominate as 'ER' was," said Spielberg, who greatly impressed the "ER" troops and partygoers by showing up unannounced and with no fanfare. "When 'ER' came on there was very little in the way of cable (competition.) Now I do all of my (TV) work for cable."
I already knew that — Spielberg shepherded Showtime's "United States of Tara" (it was kick to spend 30 seconds gushing over the fantastic-ness of Toni Collette with him) and HBO's upcoming mini "The Pacific" — but it was still eye-openingto hear it so matter-of-factly from the man himself.
The party drew a slew of current and former cast members (too many to count) and bunch of the writers and directors who've worked on the show over its 15 seasons — Neal Baer, Carol Flint, Paris Barclay and Charles Haid, to name but a few. It brought out execs who were there at the beginning, including former NBC Entertainment chief Warren Littlefield and former Amblin TV head Tony Thomopoulos. The speechifying included a gracious thanks from current NBC boss Ben Silverman to the earlier regime of Littlefield and Don Ohlmeyer and even to Leslie Moonves and Nina Tassler for nurturing the show in their pre-CBS days at Warner Bros. TV.
There was of course, no shortage of praise and standing ovations directed to "ER's" major domo, John Wells, who in turn was effusive in his thank-yous to cast and crew members for their dedication and long hours on their feet ("It's worked out well for me," he grinned). (Pictured right, Wells and "ER" vet Noah Wyle. More party pics after the jump.)
Wells also invoked the memory of Michael Crichton, who wrote the original script that would become "ER" many years later. Wells noted that in preparation for writing the finale seg ("And in the End"), he read "ER's" first seg and was struck at how even 15 years and 331 episodes later, the spirit of the show was encapsulated in the pilot that Crichton helped Wells write.
The timing of "ER's" final bow is fortuitous, with the health care policy now much in the news again as it was when the show bowed in 1994. Warner Bros. chairman Barry Meyer praised the show's laser-like focus on "constantly reinforcing the point that quality medical care for all is a right, not a privilege."
After the speeches were done and the class picture was snapped and the giant cake was sliced up, Meyer, sounding like the studio mogul that he is, made a point of making the point to me that as much as Wells and the team deserved every tribute for delivering a world-class show week in and week out, there was something to be said too for the studio that made a home for "ER" at at time when other majors were backing away from the big-budget drama biz.
"There's something very Warner Bros. about all of this," Meyer said, wistfully. He's right.
Great television drama is all about emotion and storytelling, but in this case numbers tell quite a tale. As recounted by John Wells, "ER" in its 15 seasons has racked up:
2,664 shooting days
34,000 hours of shooting
180 shooting days in Chicago
Aired in 196 countries
Translated into 22 languages
First-run NBC airings have amassed 27 billion views — and that's not counting Thursday's two-hour finale.
MORE PARTY PICS AFTER THE JUMP