ER: 25 Years Since Pilot

It’s hard to believe that it was on this date, September 19th that television not only had changed in the medical drama but in drama in general.

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It’s hard to believe that it was twenty-five years ago today that ER debuted as a two-hour movie pilot; soon would take off as one of the greatest television dramas of the ’90s. It was written in 1974 as a feature film scripted by the late Michael Crichton on his experience during his medical student day. But it didn’t see the light of day until Crichton and Steven Spielberg was putting it together. That was until Spielberg learned of Crichton’s new project, Jurassic Park, that soon stopped the process of ER and worked putting Jurassic Park.

Later that someone from Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment thought that ER would be a great television series; but getting the show on television would be more of a challenge given the current television dramas at the time. The pilot of ER was passed by the major networks twice; until NBC gave them a shot. After getting the pilot made, NBC was not too pleased with what they saw. The stories being dropped without any proper ending, the graphics of blood and the procedures and let alone the medical jargon. They didn’t think the audiences would ever understand.

Well, they were proven wrong. After not only did Warner Bros. tested the pilot and learned that it tested high for any pilot; NBC did their own testing and even tested higher than the previous testing. They placed the two-hour pilot on Monday night and later made their stamp on Thursday nights and became Must See TV with Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, and Caroline in the City.

Crichton wanted to make a real medical drama that didn’t dumb down to the audience and give too many uplifting moments. Life in the ER whether it was from a doctor’s perspective or the patient’s perspective is always dealing with life and death decisions that will always never go the way you had thought it would. It was real and authentic was what he wanted to bring and the audience responded quickly.

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And not to mention the ensemble casting that, probably only to Friends, were highly popular and recognizable. From Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Sherry Stringfield, Noah Wyle, Eriq La Salle. And Julianna Margulies, who by the way was supposed to have died in the pilot; but she tested so well that they wanted her back on the show because of not how great she was, but her chemistry between her character and Clooney’s character was. It wasn’t just all Ross and Rachael that stole everyone’s hearts in the ’90s; it was Carol and Doug as well.

After the pilot had aired, ER ran for 15 seasons on Thursday nights from 1994 to 2009. Before DVRs and streaming services; you had to watch shows live as they happen or even tape it on your VHS. My how things have changed since those days. In 2018, the show took a resurgence when Hulu got the rights to stream all 15 seasons of the series; which was about damn time; but I got my DVDs so I’m pretty good. Since ER debut there have been shows like House and Chicago Med that carry that gene.

I was five-years-old when ER premiered; I’d watched it with my grandmother and mother. I knew when I heard the opening intro to the series I knew ER was on. I might have had some nightmares, like when Dr. Greene got attacked in season three. ER was literally one of the reasons why I love television so much; from the character-driven stories and the connection to the characters; and not to mention the high action senses that come from time to time on the show. I highly recommend watching or re-watching the pilot episode; the medical terms might be outdated, but the stories hold up so good.

Are you a fan or a long-time viewer of ER? Can you believe that it’s been twenty-five years since the pilot aired? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts on the series.

You can catch the complete series of ER on Hulu, iTunes, and Google Play. You can catch ER on Pop TV Wednesdays and Thursdays at 4/3c.