After 15 years, E.R. was taken off life support Thursday night with a two-hour episode that featured former cast members Noah Wyle, Eriq La Salle,Laura Innes, Sherry Stringfield, and Alex Kingston and was written by onetime E.R. executive producer John Wells. The finale averaged 16.23 million viewers, peaking in the third half-hour with 17.77 million -- good enough to give NBC a win on Thursday night, a night that it once dominated, but far from the 30 million plus that E.R. commanded in its heyday. In her (positive) review of the episode, Sarah Rodman wrote in the Boston Globe: "It was hard not to think about saying goodbye to an era as E.R. signed off. Although it's been years since "everyone" watched anything, including E.R., the drama was the last vestige of a TV landscape that predated the explosion of the viewing universe with countless niche channels, exceptional original cable programming, and time-shifted and Internet viewing." But Debra Yeo wrote in the Toronto Star: "Watching the E.R. finale Thursday night was a little like trying on a favorite old dress and deciding that, though it reminds you of good times, it's ready for the charity pile."
NY TIMES EDITOR LOOKS AT JOURNALISM'S "NEXT LIFE"
With many newspapers across the country facing extinction, the opening of the new Lorry I. Lokey Building, housing the university newspaper, the Stanford Daily, felt like a "ribbon-cutting" for "a new Pontiac dealership," New York Times executive editor Bill Keller remarked during an opening ceremony Thursday. Speaking on the subject "The Next Life of Newspapers," Keller said that while he remains confident that the Times will weather the current economic storm with its integrity intact, he's no so sure about other outlets. As reported by Politico.com, Keller said that it is now hard to remember that the letters CNN stand for Cable News Network when reporters have been replaced by "juries of commentators" seated behind laptops on a set that looks like "a parody of a Daily Show parody" of a news set. On Newsweek, which now urges readers to go to its website for news and video and has said it plans to focus the magazine on features, Keller remarked, "I don't know what they're going to do about the magazine's title." He challenged his audience to keep the profession of journalism viable, remarking, "What we have going forward is a crying need, a shrinking supply, and the creative energy of some of the smartest people in journalism. That's enough for me. And if it's not enough for you, at least I hope I've caught you in time to change majors."
BOSTON TV STATION SAYS IT WON'T CARRY LENO
In what could be the makings of a new Boston Tea Party, NBC affiliate WHDH in Boston said Thursday that it plans to replace Jay Leno's new 10:00 p.m. variety show on NBC with a local newscast. The decision was made by owner Ed Ansin, who told the Boston Globe, "We feel we have a real opportunity with running the news at 10 p.m., ... We don't think the Leno show is going to be effective in primetime. It will be detrimental to our 11 o'clock. It will be very adverse to our finances." But John Eck, an NBC official who is technically on vacation, vowed to cancel the network's affiliation with WHDH, calling its decision to drop the Leno show "a flagrant violation of the terms of their contract with NBC," and adding, "We have a number of other strong options in the Boston market, including using our existing broadcast license to launch an NBC-owned and operated station."
NIGHTLINE IN POSITION TO BECOME NO. 1
Less than a year after many people in the industry were predicting that ABC's Nightline would be replaced by a new late-night variety show hosted by Jay Leno, the newscast has topped CBS's Late Show With David Letterman in the ratings and now stands a good chance of topping both Letterman and Conan O'Brien, who will succeed Leno on the Tonight show this fall. In the first quarter of this year, Nightline averaged 3.86 million viewers versus the Late Show's 3.79 million. Tonight led both with 5.32 million. In an interview with the TVNewser website, Nightline Executive Producer James Goldston remarked, "I hope what we're seeing is a new kind of heyday for Nightline." As for Leno's departure, he commented, "It can only be an opportunity for us."
RATHER SAYS HE HAS MORE EDITORIAL FREEDOM NOW THAN EVER BEFORE
Dan Rather says that many of the topics he now focuses on for his weekly Dan Rather Reports documentaries for the HDNet channel never see the light of day on the broadcast networks. For example, he is currently working on a program that examines "cap and trade," a program that rewards companies for reducing pollution below a certain level with credits that they can sell to companies that produce pollution above that level. "Frankly, I came into this not knowing what cap-and-trade was," Rather told the San Francisco Chronicle, let alone why people should "care about it." Wayne Nelson, executive producer of Dan Rather Reports, who has worked with Rather for 25 years, told the newspaper, "If I went to the networks and said I wanted to do an hour on cap-and-trade or go to Iceland, they'd laugh. ... With this network, the sky is the limit."
BBC HIT WITH BIGGEST FINE IN ITS HISTORY
The allegedly lewd on-air phone calls that resulted in the BBC's decision to force the resignation of comic Russell Brand and place Jonathan Ross, its top TV host, on an unpaid three-month suspension has now resulted in the BBC being fined for letting the calls go on the air in the first place. OFCOM, the chief TV watchdog in the U.K. fined the publicly supported broadcaster 150,000 ($222,000) today (Friday), the biggest fine in its history. OFCOM accused BBC managers of failing to monitor a recording of the conversation, which it called "gratuitously offensive, humiliating and demeaning," before it was broadcast. For its part, the BBC offered no defense, reiterating a previous apology for allowing the recording to go on the air.