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'ER' finale draws 16.4 million viewers; most-watched drama finale in 13 years

April 3, 2009 |  1:56 pm


Thursday's much-anticipated two-hour finale of "ER" was the most-watched wrap-up of any drama series in 13 years, with an average of 16.4 million total viewers bidding farewell to the show that was the bedrock of NBC's once-dominant Thursday lineup. 

The last drama finale to score more viewers was CBS' "Murder, She Wrote" (16.5 million) back in 1996.

NBC had heavily promoted the wind-down to the final episode, with guest spots in recent weeks from original cast members, including George Clooney.

Among the ad-friendly demographic of viewers ages 18 to 49, figures from Nielsen Media Research showed that the "ER" closer scored a 6.0 rating/16 share, the highest for any drama finale since Fox's "The X-Files" in 2002 (6.3 rating). Overall, the ratings were "ER's" best since 2006 and easily handed NBC a victory for the night.

However, the "ER" finale delivered numbers that were nowhere near record levels. That was partly a function of the audience fragmentation plaguing network TV. Also, drama finales tend to fare less well than closing episodes of hit comedies. The 1983 finale of "MASH" drew an estimated 105 million total viewers. More recently, the 2004 goodbye episode of "Friends" was seen by 52 million viewers.

— Scott Collins

Photo: Jay Clendenin/Los Angeles Times