`ER' Says Goodbye After 15 Years

In this Oct. 20, 1998, file photo, cast members cut a cake celebrating the 100th episode of the NBC series, "ER," as NBC President Warren Littlefield, second row left, and series creator John Wells, look on.
NBC closed down its "ER" Thursday night and the final epiode was a lot like the first - a mini-symphony of life and death.

Nielsen Media Research says that 16.4 million people watched the two-hour finale of "ER." That's the most-watched swan song for a television drama since "Murder She Wrote" in 1996.

The medical drama earned a record 122 Emmy Award nominations during its 15-year life, and its final episode Thursday mixed current cast members with old favorites. Many of them appeared in the show's cast when it was television's most mighty hit.

The finale featured sadness, with a mother dying shortly after giving birth to twin girls and an old man watching a woman he'd loved since the sixth grade die. But there was hopefulness, with the young daughter of Anthony Edwards' character, Dr. Mark Greene, caught up in the excitement of her late father's career.

"ER" ended with a two-hour movie, just like its premiere on Sept. 19, 1994.

The audience Thursday night was nearly double what it has been for this final season, yet still half what it was when "ER" and NBC's "must-see" Thursday night lineup ruled television