George Clooney’s return to ER sparks huge bidding war

Advertising slots for the final two hour episode have tripled as star becomes a married father of twins

He achieved fame as Hollywood's perennial bachelor, but George Clooney has sparked a multimillion-dollar bidding war by agreeing to return to the television series ER in the role of a married middle-aged father of twins.



The broadcaster, NBC, announced last week that it was tripling the price of 30-second advertising slots during the show's last-ever episode, a two-hour special, from their usual rate of $135,000 (£95,000) to between $425,000 and $500,000. Its decision came amid growing public excitement about the remaining four episodes of the 15-year-old medical drama, which will feature guest appearances from Clooney and Susan Sarandon, along with a string of prominent ER alumni.

NBC's decision to pull the ER franchise – which was created by the late Michael Crichton and is now controlled by John Wells, one of the most prominent TV producers in Hollywood – highlights a worrying trend for television drama, which is being replaced on the old networks by more profitable reality programming. ER has some of the highest production values in US television, costing $12m an episode to film. Reality programmes cost a fraction of that amount.

But while ER's audiences have steadily fallen from their mid-1990s peak of 27 million – according to Nielsen, the market research company, Thursday's episode pulled little more than seven million viewers – reality shows can still secure mass audiences in an increasingly fragmented market. The biggest weekly show on US television is American Idol, which is watched by more than 26 million people on the two nights a week on which it is broadcast.

ER was once America's hottest drama and has won 21 Emmys. NBC hopes to strike back with its 331st episode and last hurrah, which is due to air on 2 April. Viewers are expecting the likes of Anthony Edwards and Noah Wyle to slip back into the overalls of Chicago's County General Hospital and Julianna Margulies, who played Clooney's on-screen love interest, nurse Carol Hathaway, has also announced her imminent return to the show.

Plot details remain a closely guarded secret. However, Margulies revealed last week that she and Clooney had spent two days filming at Warner Studios in Burbank, Los Angeles, where the show's off-location scenes are shot.

The appearance of Hathaway with Clooney's alter ego, Dr Doug Ross, will provide a "happily-ever-after" footnote to their off-on romance which, despite its status as one of the enduring love stories in modern TV drama, was never properly concluded. Fans will learn that the couple are now happily married to each other, and are about to see their nine-year-old twin girls.

"You pick up a slice of their life now. It's very satisfying," revealed Margulies in an interview with TV Guide, adding that although loose ends will be tied up, the couple's history in the years since the womanising Ross left "could be a whole other show". During filming, she added: "It felt as though a lifetime had happened since [they left the show in 2000] ... But nothing had happened since then ... Half the crew is still there, God bless them. We were all family. It was like coming home."

Sources at Warner Brothers, who were not authorised to speak publicly, said that Clooney's return may feature in one of the three episodes that precede the finale, which airs in the UK some time in June. In one of the other remaining shows, Sarandon is scheduled to play a woman whose young grandson is killed.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future