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George Clooney is leaving the ER for good... but how?

Clooney bids 'ER' farewell

February 19, 1999
Web posted at: 12:28 a.m. EST (0528 GMT)

From Sherri Sylvester
CNN Showbiz Today Correspondent

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- George Clooney scrapped his scrubs as the hottest doc on "ER" Thursday when his character Dr. Doug Ross resigned to move to America's Pacific Northwest.

The folks at NBC's "ER" neatly packaged Ross' departure, but now face the task of stopping viewers walking off in Clooney's footsteps.

Critics agree the heartthrob doctor will be missed, and the departure also puts pressure on Clooney to launch a successful movie career.

"It tears your heart out... this character immediately hit with viewers. They loved him, and they really hate to see him go," Mark Schwed of TV Guide says.

Clooney co-star Noah Wyle, who plays Dr. Carter, says Clooney's departure is a big loss for the cast.

"It's difficult to put into words how much he meant to us behind the scenes... he was our statesman... he was the ambassador of the set when people would come in.

Whether they were newcomers or old-timers, he made them feel comfortable and welcome," says Wyle.

The usually proud peacock network is downplaying the departure.

Historically, shows have survived the loss of popular characters. "Cheers" thrived for six years after Shelley Long left, "M*A*S*H" had eight seasons without McLean Stevenson and "NYPD Blue" is still going strong without David Caruso or his replacement, Jimmy Smits.

Schwed points out the deep ensemble cast of "ER" makes it likely that it, too, will survive Clooney's departure. "'Seinfeld' could not have sustained itself without Jerry Seinfeld. 'ER' can because there are a lot of great characters on 'ER,'" Schwed says.

As for Clooney's jump to movies, the actor has talked openly over the last five years about how hard it is to juggle his "ER" duties and his big-screen roles.

While he was filming 1997's "Batman and Robin" Clooney said, "What it's going to come down to is me working one day a week or two days a week on the show, and three days a week on the movie and weekends on the movie... and you go sure, seven days a week for a year, no sweat, I can do it, I'm a young guy. And about halfway through you go, OK, I'm not going to make it."

Today's biggest movie stars have cut their teeth on TV. Leonardo DiCaprio did "Growing Pains," Jim Carrey did "In Living Color," and John Travolta did "Welcome Back Kotter."

"There are innumerable people who have made that leap and now, careers can go back and forth without there seeming to be some kind of coming up or coming down," says Movieline's Stephen Rebello.

Clooney's most critically acclaimed performance to date is "Out of Sight." He played a handsome prison escapee pursued by a federal agent, played by Jennifer Lopez. The federal agent ends up falling for the prisoner she pursued. Critics said Clooney and Lopez had great chemistry; the movie received favorable reviews.

Clooney says he has more features in the works. But, he insists, he will be revisiting the ER.

Julianna Margulies leaving 'ER'
February 4, 1999
Home Video: 'Out of Sight,' 'Madeline' best bets
January 13, 1999
'ER' actress Alex Kingston weds freelance writer
January 6, 1999
'Out of Sight' exactly that to film group
January 4, 1999

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