25th anniversary of ER.
Always Be Watching is written by Dan Barrett who scrubbed in for this newsletter.
On September 19, 1999, ER debuted on NBC. Today marks its 25th anniversary. You should start seeing a bunch of retrospective articles appearing throughout the next 24 hours, but perhaps start with this look back by Variety who interviewed former NBC programming chief Warren Littlefield.
Initially ER debuted with a 2-hour movie on a Monday night, then settled into the NBC schedule on Thursday nights as episode 2 aired on Sept 22. What was incredible is that in the same week that ER debuted, Friends also aired for the first time (Sept 22). On a single night on NBC, viewers were watching a lineup that consisted of: Seinfeld, Friends, Mad About You, and ER. That’s four TV greats in one evening. Honestly, I don’t think I even watch that many US network shows a week anymore.
Having done a series-binge of the show last year, I think it is worth pointing out just how well the show holds up in 2019. If not for the absence of some technology and some of the medical aspects, ER could just as easily be a show being made today.
Take the time to watch the first episode - you may just discover your favourite show of 2019. There’s a young actor in it named George Clooney - keep your eye on him. He’s going to be a big TV star, I promise.
This is the advertisement for the show as it ran in TV Guide magazine:
Saved By The Bell star Mark-Paul Gosselaar, arguably the most successful actor from the teen sitcom, was not approached about the new revival series.
“I read it in the trades just like everybody else this morning,” Gosselaar told Variety on the “Mixed-ish” premiere red carpet Monday night. “Honestly, I was never approached. I woke up to the news this morning with a kind of ‘huh’ response.”
20 years ago, David E Kelley became the first (and to this day, only) TV producer to win an Emmy for both the best drama series and the best comedy (winning for The Practice and Ally McBeal). The feat was more impressive when you consider that Kelley wrote the good bulk of episodes of each series.
“The guy wrote pretty much every script for both shows on a yellow legal pad,” says Sandy Grushow, who headed 20th Century Fox TV in that era and is now CEO of Phase 2 Media. “I knew how hard he worked and that virtually every word was his. He had really talented casts and directors and producers, but the words came out of him. And to be celebrated like that in both [Emmy] categories was pretty mind-blowing but also well deserved.”
HBO Max has picked up The Boondocks for 24-episodes. Creator Aaron McGruder will return to run what will be a two-season return. The show feels more (broadly) culturally connected today than it did during its original run.
The Brady kids all appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and it went about as well as you’d expect (Mostly charming with a few cringe-moments - hard to avoid with a group of 6 being interviewed at once).
The one big thought I had during all of this is: Why was Maureen McCormick not a more successful actor as an adult? She has consistently worked on TV as an adult, but watching her here is a reminder that she really has that sense of presence that you see from bona fide stars.