”ER” fans weren’t the only ones surprised by George Clooney’s guest appearance Thursday night. So was NBC. Network execs learned only late Wednesday that Clooney would briefly return to television’s No. 1 drama to help wrap the six-year love story between his character and Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies). The heads-up by ”ER” exec producer John Wells gave NBC just enough time to cut a promo that hinted about a surprise reunion on ”ER.”
Even folks over at Warner Bros. Television — which produces the show — were kept out of the loop until Thursday. Up until then, many people (including the press) were convinced that Clooney wouldn’t return for Margulies’ final episode.
”We shot the 60-second scene several weeks ago in Seattle before George had to leave to promote his new Ethan and Joel Coen film at Cannes,” said Wells in a statement released today. ”He did the scene for scale, for old friends and for the many fans of this long-running story line. We wish Julianna all the best in her future pursuits and neither she nor George will be returning to ‘ER’ again.”
In the episode, a lovesick Carol flies to Seattle to see whether her longtime love and ”soul mate” was willing to rekindle their romance (Clooney wrapped his five-year stint on ER last season, with his character wanting to work as a doctor in the northwest). Yet fans had to wait until the final minutes of last night’s episode to see an unshaven Clooney — whose only line was asking Carol ”where are the girls?” (the couple have twins). The episode ends with the two kissing and hugging at the side of a lake.
The scene was such a surprise to fans that NBC’s ”Today” aired the entire scene on Friday morning’s edition. In overnight ratings, the episode generated a 38 share in its final half hour — making ”ER” the highest-rated show on Thursday night.