×

Roth recalls ‘ER’s’ huge first season

WB TV topper remembers the ratings bonanza

If anything ever happened to me, I would want to go to County General,” says Warner Bros. TV topper Peter Roth, in what could be construed as the highest praise for “ER,” the series that set up residence on Soundstage 11 at the Burbank lot 15 years ago and is only now saying goodbye.

Certainly, Roth could afford a medical facility that might rank higher on a list of the best hospitals in the country, but his sentiments are clearly understood.

All that is well and good, but the show wouldn’t have become the signature medical program it became if nobody tuned in. And while it now seems almost inconceivable that “ER” could’ve failed early on, even more ironic is that it nearly didn’t even make it on the air.

Leslie Moonves, who was the head of Warner Bros. at the time “ER” was pitched to NBC, supported the show vigorously even though the Peacock had reservations about the frenetic look of the pilot as well as the medical jargon. But the show landed a plum 10 p.m. Thursday spot, taking over for Emmy champ “L.A. Law” and generated enormous heat right away.

“My memory is firm,” says John Miller, chief marketing officer at the NBC Universal Television Group: “We started as a two-hour pilot and got a 27 share. The next week it was up to a 30 share, week four was a 33, and by November it was a 40 share.”

Those numbers are almost incomprehensible today for a primetime drama series, but those were heady times. And the ratings were huge for years to come, making one think that both Warner Bros. and NBC might be interested in a spinoff.

Certainly, that worked for “Cheers,” which segued into “Frasier,” and the Peacock also spun off “Law and Order” into a megahit franchise. It certainly wouldn’t have been unheard to create an “ER: Los Angeles,” “ER: Boston” and so on if that’s what the studio and network had wanted.

“There had been discussions about it, but it didn’t happen,” Roth says. “The principal players felt they didn’t want to sully the reputation of the golden goose. I always respected that. It never came to serious fruition, and appropriately so. ‘ER’ is an institution, and nothing should take away from the sanctity of that.”

Miller confirms, “There was talk about it, but many of the people involved in the show wanted to keep it pure.”

Going forward, now that “ER” is ending its run, exec producer John Wells will move on to “Southland,” a drama about the Los Angeles Police Dept. that will fill the 10 p.m. Thursday timeslot “ER” vacates. “ER” exec producer Chris Chulack will direct and exec produce.

As for the actors’ future projects: Scott Grimes is set to co-star in Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe, David Lyons has been cast in the NBC pilot “Day One,” and Linda Cardellini will voice a part in the upcoming Mike Judge animated series on ABC, “A Goode Family.”

More TV

  • How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    Toyo hunches over his street food stove, cooking tuna with a blow torch, stopping to light his cigarette with it and produce a cheeky grin. The Japanese chef, who owns a roadside stand in the city of Osaka, is one of many highlighted in the Netflix series “Street Food.” Over the course of 30 minutes, [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Shannen Doherty'Jennie Garth: A Little Bit

    Shannen Doherty Joins 'Riverdale' Season 4 in Luke Perry Tribute

    “Riverdale” is planning to make a special tribute to Luke Perry. The show’s executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa announced at Comic-Con that Shannen Doherty, Perry’s longtime friend and “Beverly Hills 90210” co-star, will guest star in the season 4 premiere. The tribute episode will “reflect Perry’s enduring legacy and the indelible imprint his character” Fred Andrews [...]

  • Supernatural CW

    'Supernatural' Team Gets Emotional Final Season Sendoff at Comic-Con

    The cast and creative team of “Supernatural” bid a fond farewell to the attendees of San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday. At the show’s final panel in the gargantuan Hall H, the team thanked the fans for all of their support over the years as the series prepares to enter its final season. “I’m trying not [...]

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases

    SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases 'The Magicians' Season 5 Clip (Watch)

    In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, Syfy shares a clip from “The Magicians” Season 5, and Amazon sets the Season 4 premiere of “The Expanse.” CASTING Julie Gonzalo and Staz Nair have joined the cast of “Supergirl” for its upcoming fifth season. Gonzalo will portray iconic DC character Andrea Rojas aka Acrata, a polished businesswoman [...]

  • Doom Patrol -- Ep. 101 --

    'Doom Patrol' Renewed, Season 2 to Stream on DC Universe and HBO Max

    “Doom Patrol” has been renewed for a second season and will soon be available outside of DC Universe. At San Diego Comic-Con, series executive producer Jeremy Carver and star Diane Guerrero announced not only that the show will be back for another season but also that it will be available on HBO Max, the upcoming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content