"ER" finale draws 16.4 million TV viewers

Fri Apr 3, 2009 6:55pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBC hospital drama "ER" ended its 15-year run by drawing 16.4 million viewers for its final episode, the highest viewership for a drama finale since 1996, the U.S. network said on Friday.

The two-hour show on Thursday night brought back "ER" alumni Noah Wyle and Eriq La Salle, as the staff at County General Hospital in Chicago treated a dying woman in labor, an AIDS patient and a comatose teenager with alcohol poisoning.

The last scene showed emergency room staff wheeling in burn victims from a plant explosion as Chicago's famous elevated train passed overhead, giving audiences the sense that while a TV show may end, life goes on.

The 16.4 million figure was the highest for a U.S. drama finale since the CBS show "Murder, She Wrote" in 1996, which drew 16.5 million viewers, NBC said.

Earlier on Friday the network said the show had drawn 16.2 million viewers.

Throughout its run on U.S. television, "ER" boosted the careers of actors like Wyle, La Salle and George Clooney, who played Dr. Doug Ross on the show until 1999.

The late author Michael Crichton created the series in 1994, drawing on his experiences as a medical student at a busy hospital emergency department.

As original cast members bowed out, they were replaced by the likes of John Stamos, Angela Bassett and Maura Tierney, and viewership slipped.   Continued...

<p>U.S. actor George Clooney poses on the red carpet before the German telethon "Ein Herz fuer Kinder" (A Heart for Children) in Berlin, December 6, 2008. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele</p>