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Beware, article has slight spoiler for the beginning of Season 8.

'ER' Ready for the Competition
Fri, Jul 20, 2001 11:15 AM PDT
by Brill Bundy

LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) - NBC has dominated Thursday nights for years, but in January things changed when CBS put "Survivor: The Australian Outback" and "CSI" up against NBC's first two hours of comedy. The upstart not only lived to tell the tale, but prospered.

"ER" producer John Wells thinks this is great news.
"What we've discovered is there is a larger audience available on Thursday night," says Wells. "If you put enough stuff that people want to see on the air, more people will show up to watch."

"I think because Thursday nights have been such a huge success for NBC for so long, that everybody was waiting for something that was one of those extraordinary kind of breakout hits that's a cultural phenomenon."
"ER's" primary competition in the fall will be CBS' C.I.A. drama "The Agency," created by Wolfgang Petersen and Shaun Cassidy, and starring Gil Bellows ("Ally McBeal"). While "ER" still rules the ten o'clock roost on Thursdays, critics have noticed that it's starting to wear a little thin. With 11 regular cast members, too many storylines are started, but never finished and only a few characters are really allowed to shine.

"We're in a process as the original cast of the series is ending their stay where we were introducing a lot of new characters and seeing who would stick and we've got people who are leaving every year for the next few years, so I expect what you'll see is as the series goes on the cast will becoming smaller," says Wells. "The way the story-telling takes place, we try to really build a character's life before we put them into major stories and that takes a certain amount of time."

One of the show's stars, Anthony Edwards, will be leaving the medical drama at the end of next season. Having recovered from brain surgery last year, marrying his girlfriend Dr. Corday (Alex Kingston) and having a baby, Edwards has one major storyline left to face -- the return of his true love, played by Sherry Stringfield.

"We plan to see her in the fall, but not necessarily right away," says producer Jack Orman. "One of the things as writers, directors, and storytellers, we have to be mindful of when we introduce new characters is getting the audience to attach to them, and sympathesize with them, and empathesize with them, and care about them, and that takes a certain amount of time. But, when Sherry comes back, a large percentage of our audience knows who the character is, and like her already, and we'll get a lot of juice off that."

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