Coming Back Around
Stamos is grateful to be on the resurgent 'ER'LOS ANGELES --
And you know what? Stamos is actually all right with that.
"I don't think I was mature enough to handle this part and this show" prior to now, says Stamos, who plays paramedic-turned-doctor Tony Gates on the long-running NBC drama. "Just timing-wise, it felt like now was the time to do it. I felt very safe. There are a bunch of great actors there, great writers, great directors. I felt like I was in really good hands."
Stamos' arrival as a full-time cast member -- he guest-starred on a couple of episodes last season -- has coincided with a ratings uptick on "ER." In its 13th season, the show is once again winning its Thursday timeslot by healthy margins among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers NBC cares about most -- which has led the network to scrap plans to give it an extended midseason hiatus.
Executive producer David Zabel is understandably gratified by the confidence NBC has shown in "ER." As to the whys of the renewed interest, he points to the new opportunities caused by the inevitable turnover on such a veteran show.
"My attitude is, I'm going to try to treat this like a new show. I'm going to think of it as a new show, try to approach it with the energy of a and vitality of a new show," says Zabel, who's been with "ER" for about half its life and has served as showrunner for the past couple of seasons. "It's really a reinvention of what the show was at the beginning."
Its longevity may also be attracting a new group of viewers, Zabel thinks, including possibly some who watch ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" at 9 p.m. on Thursdays and are coming to "ER" at 10.
"It's a combination of old viewers who may have left the show and come back to it, and are rediscovering how good it can be ... and younger viewers who never really knew the show before and are finding it as if it were a new show," he says. "They never saw the original cast because they were 11 years old [when 'ER' premiered in 1994] and in bed at 10 o'clock. Now they're 22 or 23, and they go, 'Wow, this is a pretty cool show.'"
That history was another selling point for Stamos, whose luck with series TV since his time on "Full House" hasn't been too great. In addition to "Jake in Progress," he starred in ABC's short-lived "Thieves" in 2001.
"I'm on this show for a while, and I haven't been on a show for any length of time [recently]," he says. "On other shows you sort of cram everything into the first six episodes before you get cancelled. So I'm going to be around 'ER' for a good long time, and they're taking the time to really develop this character."
That wasn't the feeling he had toward the end of "Jake in Progress," which he describes as an "infuriating" time.
"I absolutely went crazy with ABC. I was mad at the way they handled the whole situation," he says. "I was happy to do 'Jake' again because I loved the show, I believed in the show. I think we made a really good half-hour, single-camera comedy. What drove me nuts was they picked it up, and we made 10 or 11 really strong episodes, and they put it on one time.
"I think they thought it would go good with Heather Graham's show ['Emily's Reasons Why Not'], and when that didn't work out they pulled me and promised to put me back on. That's why I kept making those shows. But it's infuriating that they never aired them."
Hearing Stamos repeat how happy he is to be on "ER" now, though, you get the idea it was worth the wait for him.
"Everyone's going, like, 'Wow -- I didn't know you can act,'" he jokes. "I don't blame people, because I haven't really had the opportunity, other than doing Broadway or whatever, to show people that, first, I'm an adult now, and I do really care about my craft. ...
"I'm going to be on TV for at least two years, and I know a good amount of people are going to see me every week on a very high-quality show," he says. "It's all about where I am in life. I crave stability. I live 20 minutes from the studio, I drive down, work really hard all day -- it's the best."