Daily News Article

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By RICHARD HUFF N.Y. Daily News Staff Writer

George Clooney returned to NBC's "ER" last night. In what was the most closely guarded programming secret in years, Clooney turned up briefly at the end of last night's episode. As Dr. Doug Ross, he was reunited with lost love Nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies).

The surprise, pulled off with the precision of a Gulf War bombing mission, was unknown to anyone outside of those who worked on the scene and top executives at Warner Bros. TV, where the show is produced.

So secretive was the production, the executives at NBC didn't know about Clooney's appearance until late Wednesday night, when the completed show was delivered to the network, sources said.

"George came back to help us conclude the six-year love story between Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway," said executive producer John Wells in a statement. "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 ["O Brother, Where Art Thou?"] at Cannes."

Clooney did the work for union scale "a grand total of $596" and "for old friends and for the many fans of this long-running story line," Wells added.

Keeping the scene a secret cost NBC's an opportunity to promote Clooney's appearance. "I wouldn't say we're upset," said a network source. "Part of us feels it's fun for the viewers. Part of us says we really wish we could take advantage of it."

Whether intentional or not, Wells' move prevented NBC's promotion department from overblowing the importance of the appearance.

Typically, the production of any series requires contact between the network and the show producers at several stages along the way, including the initial script approval and viewing of rough cuts.

Sources say, however, NBC was presented scripts that included an alternative ending and no hint of a return of Dr. Ross.

Adding to the intrigue were comments by Clooney himself in early April that he had never been contacted by the folks at "ER" about coming back.

Whether Clooney would return to the series has been one of Tinseltown's biggest party games in the past year. He left the show in February 1999, though since that day there has been near constant speculation that he would return for an episode. That talk came to a fever pitch as the current season ticked down to the departure of Nurse Hathaway (actress Margulies is exiting the series).

When Ross left "ER," the story line had him going to Seattle, leaving behind Hathaway. It was revealed afterward that she was pregnant with twins. Fans of the series and some of the cast often said they felt it was necessary for Ross and Hathaway to get together, if only for a moment, to bring the relationship to a close.

Last night, viewers saw Hathaway getting on a plane for a destination not revealed. Then she arrived in Seattle, where she met up with Ross in the end.

Margulies is the latest member of the "ER" cast to leave the show. She did so after turning down an offer worth $27 million to remain for a couple of more seasons.

Yesterday, Margulies told radio morning man Howard Stern that while "ER" was a great gig, she needed to move on no matter what the cash offer.

"It couldn't be a monetary decision," she said. "I couldn't be a rich sad person."

She admitted most people couldn't fathom how someone could walk away from such a big payday.

"In all honesty, it was a big decision," she said. "But I'm glad I'm out of it."

Fans of the series shouldn't bank on either Clooney or Margulies turning up on the drama in the future.

Said Wells: "We wish Julianna all the best in her future pursuits and neither she nor George will be returning to 'ER' again."

-- Phyl (erfan@flash.net), May 12, 2000


Thanks for sharing that article! I'm happy to know that they didn't pay him some unbelievably huge amount of money to come back - somehow I like it better knowing that he didn't do it for the money, but for his fellow cast members and for us, the fans.

However, I'm sad that John Wells said that neither of them would ever be back in the ER. Although I'm not sure whether to believe that or not, since they all said that George wasn't coming back and then he did. It would be nice to see them pop in on the ER staff at least once in the coming year or two, but I'll take the ending I got last night! It was perfect!

-- cherry (hoffner@mail.icongrp.com), May 12, 2000.

Of course, you can't rule out that they won't reappear on the *final* episode of the series, whenever that happens. Sort of a'la Shelly Long's reappearance on that last epi of Cheers... just showing where everyone is now. It's not really ER's style, but it's always possible.

-- J.J. Ruth (josh_judges_ruth@hotmail.com), May 12, 2000.

All I can say is that i totally respect George for doing the epi for the fans and freinds. this just goes to show me even more what a heck of a guy he is. It does put a bee in my bonnet about how the NBC executives wished that they had known about George's comeback so that they could of used that to exploite it. It was a million times better this way, it was for the fans not the $$ or anything else. Hats off to everyone who kept it a secret and for doing it that way. All the best to JM for what ever she does now. I still have a grin from ear to ear on my face for that wonderful ending for the two of them.

-- Heather (charliegirll@hotmail.com), May 12, 2000.

It was a million times better that we did not know! I was even disappointed with the ads that started showing yesterday. I noticed during "Friends" the ad that said "A special reunion" and thought I guess he is going to be back on. I wished i had not even seen those! And I think it is very cool that the ER people "tricked" the execs at NBC!

-- amanda (amanda.rehm@home.com), May 12, 2000.

I might be missing something here, but I think NBC came out pretty good in the deal. The "will he or won't he" situation made people tune in who just wanted to find out. If they'd known in advance, they might or might not have. IMHO, the way it played out might have been better for them than a big exploitation thing. If they'd done that...and then he'd been on for 60-seconds (not much longer than the commercials they'd have shown), people would have been angry and they'd have lost in the long run. Four years is a long time and John Wells said GC wouldn't be back for JM's last epi, so I think I'll just wait and see what happens. Never say never, John.

-- Diana (dilynne@juno.com), May 12, 2000.

I said this in another thread, but I HOPE Mark and Elizabeth get married next season and I WISH Doug and Carol would come back for it. No chance, I know.

-- Felicity (felicity08@juno.com), May 12, 2000.

Thanks for the article, I thought it was perfect how the whole thing played out!! I'm glad it wasn't highly-publicized, it was SO much better this way. What I love most about this is that that beautiful scene had nothing to do with money. In order for it to take place, Julianna Margulies had to turn down $27 million. George Clooney in no way has to work Union scale, but he did because Margulies wanted him in the episode, he wanted to do this, and they knew the fans would appreciate it. It was the storyline that mattered to both, and that's great!!!! :-)

-- Arianne (CarolRossSusanGreene@yahoo.com), May 12, 2000.

If anybody's interested, there's a similar article at http:// tv.yahoo.com/yahoo/news/story.dpg?q=1&adf=lw051200 . Not completely the same, and there's a small picture from "Something New." :-)

-- Arianne (CarolRossSusanGreene@yahoo.com), May 12, 2000.

Awwwwwwwww, I love that he did it for that little money...remember when they said awhile ago that he could get paid a lot for this, but he didn't. I've been saying this over and over, but I agree w/ Arianne that he did it a lot for Julianna Margulies. I've heard a few times that JM thinks that she would be unhappy had she stayed on ER. At first I didn't like hearing this, but she probably realized that she wanted Doug and Carol to be together, and since GC left, they would not be together. I really wish she hadn't left, but it's the only way for them to be together.

I hope they come back too, like for the series finale (a wedding would be appropriate...mark's or Carter's)... I wish Wells hadn't been so ubrupt about stating that they would never be back. Should we believe it?

-- Elaine (mrsclooney78@hotmail.com), May 13, 2000.

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