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‘ER’: Changing Times

March 29, 2009 8:00 PM

Much has changed in the world of TV—and the world in general—since “ER” premiered 15 years ago. A Democrat (Bill Clinton) was in the White House when “ER” bowed, just like now. But unemployment was much lower: Just 6.1%. “ER” also didn’t have to worry about competing with the World Series: The Fall Classic was canceled due to the players strike. The small-screen landscape, of course, was radically different back when County General first opened its doors. For example, none of the executives running the Big Four networks at the time still holds a similar position—not surprising, given that the average network president seems to last about three or four years before getting sacked. It was a pretty good year for TV overall, however. In addition to “ER,” 1994 brought the premieres of “Friends,” “Party of Five,” “Touched By an Angel,” “Due South” and “Ellen,” all of which had long runs. “My So-Called Life” and “The Critic” weren’t so lucky. On the big screen, “Forrest Gump” and “The Lion King” were burning up the box office. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger weren’t quite as successful (on-air or off) with “The Getaway.” And while Arnold Schwarzengger has spent “ER’s” final season trying to save Cawl-ee-for-nya from fiscal crisis, he spent the show’s first year hyping his new movie “Junior.” The year of “ER’s” birth also marked the arrival of another showbiz treasure: Precocious actress Dakota Fanning, who was born Feb. 23, 1994. Just six years later, she was starring in an episode of “ER.”

—Josef Adalian

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