- Format: DVD Region 2 for the UK
- Number of Disc: 90
- Genre: Medical Drama
- Starring: Anthony Edwards,Maura Tierney,Noah Wyle,George Clooney
- Studio: WarnerBrothers
- Release Date: 2009
What’s it about
In 1974, author Michael Crichton wrote a screenplay based on his own experiences as a medical student in a busy hospital emergency room. The screenplay went nowhere and Crichton focused on other topics. In 1990, he published the novel Jurassic Park, and in 1993 began a collaboration with director Steven Spielberg on the film adaptation of the book. Crichton and Spielberg then turned to ER, but decided to film the story as a two-hour pilot for a television series rather than as a feature film. Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment provided John Wells as the show’s executive producer. The script used to shoot the pilot was virtually unchanged from what Crichton had written in 1974. The only substantive changes made by the producers in 1994 were that the Susan Lewis character became a woman and the Peter Benton character became an African-American, and the running time was shortened by about 20 minutes in order for the pilot to air in a two-hour block on network TV. Because of a lack of time and money necessary to build a set, the pilot episode of ER was filmed in the former Linda Vista Hospital in Los Angeles, an old facility that had ceased operating in 1990. A set modeled after Los Angeles County General Hospital’s emergency room was built soon afterward at the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California, although the show makes extensive use of location shoots in Chicago, most notably the city’s famous “L” train platforms.
Warren Littlefield, running NBC Entertainment at the time, was impressed by the series: “We were intrigued, but we were admittedly a bit spooked in attempting to go back into that territory a few years after St. Elsewhere.” After Spielberg had joined as a producer, NBC ordered six episodes. “ER premiered opposite a Monday Night Football game on ABC and did surprisingly well. Then we moved it to Thursday and it just took off”, commented Littlefield. ER’s success surprised the networks and critics alike, as David E. Kelley’s new medical drama Chicago Hope was expected to crush the new series.
Spielberg left the show after one year as a producer, having made one critical decision with lasting effects: the Carol Hathaway character, who died at the end of the original pilot episode script, was retained. Crichton remained executive producer until his death in November 2008, although he was still credited as one throughout that entire final season. Wells, the series’ other initial executive producer, served as showrunner for the first three seasons. He was one of the show’s most prolific writers and became a regular director in later years. Lydia Woodward was a part of the first season production team and became an executive producer for the third season. She took over as showrunner for the fourth season while Wells focused on the development of other series, including Trinity, Third Watch, and The West Wing. She left her executive producer position at the end of the sixth season but continued to write episodes throughout the series’ run.
Joe Sachs, who was a writer and producer of the series, believed keeping a commitment to medical accuracy was extremely important: “We’d bend the rules but never break them. A medication that would take 10 minutes to work might take 30 seconds instead. We compressed time. A 12- to 24-hour shift gets pushed into 48 minutes. But we learned that being accurate was important for more reasons than just making real and responsible drama.”
Woodward was replaced as showrunner by Jack Orman. Orman was recruited as a writer-producer for the series in its fourth season after a successful stint working on CBS’s JAG. He was quickly promoted and became an executive producer and showrunner for the series’ seventh season. He held these roles for three seasons before leaving the series at the end of the ninth season. Orman was also a frequent writer and directed three episodes of the show. David Zabel served as the series’ head writer and executive producer in its later seasons. He initially joined the crew for the eighth season and became an executive producer and showrunner for the twelfth season onward. Zabel was the series’ most frequent writer, contributing to 41 episodes. He also made his directing debut on the series. Christopher Chulack was the series’ most frequent director and worked as a producer on all 15 seasons. He became an executive producer in the fourth season but occasionally scaled back his involvement in later years to focus on other projects. Other executive producers include writers Carol Flint, Neal Baer, R. Scott Gemmill, Dee Johnson, Joe Sachs, Lisa Zwerling, and Janine Sherman Barrois. Several of these writers and producers had extensive background in emergency medicine. Joe Sachs was a regular emergency attending physician, while Lisa Zwerling and Neal Baer had pediatrics backgrounds. The series’ crew was recognized with awards for writing, directing, producing, film editing, sound editing, casting, and music.