George Clooney quietly returned to "ER" in a long-awaited appearance that gave the TV hospital drama its best viewership ratings in two years as the show nears its final emergency.
donned his Dr. Doug Ross scrubs one more time along with his TV wife Julianna Marguiles (nurse Carol Hathaway) in an episode broadcast on Thursday that also featured old-timers Noah Wyle (Dr. John Carter) and Eriq La Salle (Dr. Peter Benton).
Although barely promoted by NBC,
the episode saw a 23 percent increase in audiences over last week's show, whose 15th and final season ends next month.
NBC, which is currently lagging in bottom place among the four major U.S. networks.
said the 10.7 million Americans who tuned in gave "ER" its best ratings since Feb 2007.
"ER" turned Clooney into an international heart-throb and he left in 1999 to pursue a movie career full time.
He returned for a brief, surprise cameo in May 2000 but had repeatedly said he was not interested in going back again.
Anthony Edwards, whose character Dr. Mark Greene, died of brain cancer in 2002, has already returned for the final season in flashback scenes along with Laura Innes (Dr. Weaver) and Paul McCrane (Dr. Romano).
The ground-breaking series, set in the emergency room of a fictional Chicago hospital, was the top-rated drama on U.S. in the mid-1990s but audiences have slipped sharply in recent years.