Prepare yourselves for what could be the greatest comeback in television history. Forget Lazarus-like Dirty Den, or Bobby Ewing – or even Harold from Neighbours.
The producers of ER have claimed that they are "optimistic" about persuading George Clooney's character, Dr Doug Ross, to hop on a plane from Seattle, where he and Hathaway have been building boats and raising their kids (now in third grade) ever since season six.
ER, set to return for its 15th and final season at the end of this year, is America's longest-running medical drama. Among the beloved characters tipped to return to the emergency room of Chicago's County General, before it finally closes its doors for good next February, are doctors Ross, Carter and Greene. Mark Greene (played by Anthony Edwards), as ER aficionados will know, died in 2002 after the recurrence of a brain tumour. He will appear only in flashback, during an upcoming episode called "Heal Thyself". With a run of 11 consecutive seasons in a leading role, Carter (played by Noah Wyle), was the show's most enduring character. He has been practising in war-torn central Africa with Thandie Newton for the past few seasons, but will return for a run of four episodes.
Clooney's people have already ruled out rumours of a return for Doug Ross, and the 47-year-old star is on record as saying he'll never go back to the show. Recently, however, ER's executive producer David Zabel told the American magazine TV Guide that the programme's writers have conjured "a really good storyline for every character from the past". It being the final season, perhaps Clooney will feel enough affection for the show that made him a star to make at least a cameo appearance.
Before winning the part of Doug Ross, Clooney laboured in obscurity, his most famous film role being Matt Stevens in Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988). But ER made him a heartthrob as soon as it was first broadcast in 1994. By the time he left the show in 1999, Clooney was a huge star – already the leading man in such massive movie productions as the best-forgotten Batman and Robin (1997).
His publicist told journalists this week that Clooney is currently "busy making movies". But committed George fans will remember that cinematic success didn't stop him fulfilling his final duties in the emergency room at the end of Ross's tenure. Indeed, Clooney flew back and forth between ER's Chicago set and those of his early film hits Three Kings and The Perfect Storm. Let's hope he feels like dusting down his trusty stethoscope for one last consultation....