The charity Zoom reunion featured Clooney alongside Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies, Noah Wyle, Ming-Na Wen, CCH Pounder, Gloria Reuben, Laura Innes, Goran Visnjic, Paul McCrane, Laura Cerón, Yvette Freeman, Connie Marie Brazelton and Ellen Crawford.
It was a trip to the "ER" for everyone on Thursday, but this one was for a good cause as the cast of the NBC juggernaut reunited via Zoom to remember the good times, their meteoric rise to fame and even discuss reboot possibilities.
The rise of streaming has helped the long-running medical drama find a whole new audience, which apparently includes George Clooney's wife Amal. And according to the actress, her watching the show has been "disastrous."
"I forgot all of the terrible things I'd done as Dr. Ross," he quipped during the special broadcast. "My wife keeps going, 'Is that it? Are you done? Season 3 -- do you finally settle down with Nurse Hathaway? It's been a disaster for my marriage."
But revisiting the show nearly three decades after it premiered has helped Clooney see it with new eyes, and appreciate what they were creating amid such chaos. "I have to say, you know, its such great television."
He said he knew they'd struck magic when standing backstage at the show's first upfront event and hearing the crowd going crazy. "We realized at that exact moment -- we knew suddenly, as a bunch of actors who struggled -- suddenly, we’re going to be working for a while," he recalled. "And the joy that came with that."
He went on to note, "People forget when our show came out, in the first few seasons, we were doing tens of millions more [viewers] than "Friends." We knew how lucky we were."
The cast was just as famous as the stars of "Friends," too, at the time, with Margulies remembering a time they were shooting on location and decided to step out for dinner together. "It was like walking with the Beatles," she said. "I remember standing back and they were screaming for the guys."
The 1990s was pretty much the peak for overall viewership numbers, save a few anomalies in later years like "American Idol." Before cable and ultimately streaming options fragmented viewers, it was nothing to draw tens of millions of viewers or more every week.
Margulies recalled the excitement producers felt on a later project when she was able to reach 14 million viewers, comparing it to the 44 million viewers that would have been an average week for "ER" and NBC's massive Thursday night lineup.
"It was appointment television," Clooney added. "I'd been on seven series before that, and not one of them was a success. We got to take a really nice ride on a really wonderful show."
When asked about the possibility of a revival, which seems to be all the rage these days, Wylie was quick to point out that EP/showrunner John Wells never even gave into the notion of franchising the series like the "Chicago" brand or "Law & Order" and "CSI."
As for a reboot now, Clooney wasn't so sure it would work, even as he's been rewatching it with his wife. "I don’t know," he said. "The hardest part is when you look at the show consistently over the years, it would be hard to say that we could do it at the level we did it."
"It’s such great television," he continued. "This is better than anything I see in film or anywhere. I felt that way about a lot of the episodes I saw."
As such, he things it might be impossible to recapture that magic. "It's hard to catch lightning again," he noted.
Margulies echoed Clooney's thought, adding, "I don’t think you can reboot it. I think you have to leave what was so beautiful and move on." She said she feels that even trying would "cheapen" the original.
But there is one aspect of a reboot that does sound appealing. "“I would like to do it just to hang out with this group of people again," said Wen.
Clooney quickly agreed, saying that's why so many of them had quickly agreed to this call. "We were really excited to see each other," he said. "I’m excited to see this gang. We grew up together. These are people that I love. It’s fun to see you guys."