‘ER’ Almost Didn’t Have a 15th Season — Then the Writers’ Strike Happened

One of the best-known TV shows is ER. The show garnered millions of viewers, who respected the series for its realism. The set was similar to an actual hospital, and the characters used real industry tools. Newer medical shows followed this trend, which helped healthcare workers when shows like Grey’s Anatomy offered to donate supplies. 

ER had set another precedent for medical shows by bringing in various stars. The celebrities came and went from the cast to boost viewership. The show managed to retain its popularity even during the writers’ strike that occurred from 2007 to 2008.

The producers even ended up with another season. 

What was the 2007 WGA writers’ strike?

In November of 2007, the Writers Guild of America initiated a strike. The writers of TV shows and movies stopped working when negotiations of the union’s contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers halted. The rise of internet content made the industry rethink how to compensate workers. 

Netflix started its streaming service around the same time. The company changed the game as it entered the competition along with TV networks and studios. Many people were also beginning to build their own sites to create web content. 

Writers were demanding to get paid for their labor on streaming and web originals. They felt that they got paid unfairly. Dozens of TV shows had to delay new episodes. 

According to History, the strike lasted 100 days. Negotiators reached an agreement on February 8, 2008, and the strike officially ended on February 12. The 100-day period had cost the local economy an estimated $3 billion. 

Several shows experienced lower ratings during the strike. However, some shows managed to survive and even benefit from the event. 

What is ‘ER’?

George Clooney as Doctor Doug Ross, James LeGros as Dr. Max Rosher
George Clooney as Doctor Doug Ross, James LeGros as Dr. Max Rosher | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

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ER is a medical drama that aired from 1994 to 2009. The show received positive views from fans and critics alike. The show originally starred Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Sherry Stringfield, Noah Wyle, and Eriq La Salle. The cast of characters would change as the series went on. 

The show focuses on what goes on in a Chicago hospital emergency room. It follows the characters as they interact with each other and try to help people. Each episode depicts the daily life of an emergency room. Sometimes, things are not that exciting, and then there are moments when lives are on the line. 

ER focuses on the personal and daily lives of the doctors, nurses, and medical students. The show weaves in several storylines for the characters. For example, Dr. Greene’s marriage falls apart during a season. Another season has a medical student, John Carter, working with an older patient to secure his place in a heart procedure study. 

The show became highly successful during its run. It had record-break ratings in 1996, and showrunners wanted to keep Clooney as a cast member. At the height of the show’s fame, each episode had a $13 million budget. Despite its popularity, producers did not plan to make the 15th season. 

Why did ‘ER’ get another season?

While some shows struggled during the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike, ER managed to get a 15th season as a result of it. According to Elle, the show was supposed to end on season 14. Just like every other series, ER had trouble getting episodes produced. In the end, they had to cut the episode count for the season. 

The producers felt that there was not sufficient time to end the series properly. They knew that fans would view the finished storylines as rushed. Toward the end of the show’s run, viewership slowly declined. The number of viewers fell below 10 million by the 14th season.  

Such a low count during the season may have been partially due to the strike. Ratings probably would have gone further down if the showrunners left the finale as is. Luckily, NBC agreed to let the series have another season to finish off the show. The 15th season ran from 2008–2009.