'ER': No, It's Still On TV. And Has Been Since Man Discovered Fire. We look at just how long ER has been on the air, as its Thursday series finale approaches.

'ER': No, It's Still On TV. And Has Been Since Man Discovered Fire.

ER: Yes, this really is a scene from ER. And if you don't recognize those actors, they are Parminder Nagra and Leland Orser. NBC hide caption

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Okay, ER hasn't been around quite as long as fire.

But the show, which comes to an end this Thursday, has been on since 1994. Fifteen seasons. Don't feel bad if you are currently having the same sensation that accompanies the "In Memoriam" segment at the Oscars when mention of someone's death makes you think, "Wow, that guy was alive until just recently?"

How does a fifteen-season run stack up to the run of a typical show -- even a typical long-running show? Let's take a look.

The data, after the jump...

a chart showing ER's fifteen-season run compared to the much shorter runs of other shows

Note that we're not counting seasons here. It's too hard to compare thirteen-episode HBO seasons with 22-episode network seasons and count stubby little half-seasons for shows that appeared as midseason replacements and so forth. We're just talking about how long you're on the radar; over how many calendar years did the show produce new episodes? This results in some overrepresentation of shows like The Sopranos, which had a way of disappearing for eons before returning.

I also threw in a couple of extra entries -- the length of a two-term presidency and the length of time it took to publish all the Harry Potter books -- for comparison.

It's really not just another long-running show. It's a really long-running show. Imagine if Friends had stayed on for another five seasons. Or Seinfeld for another six. Or The Cosby Show for another seven -- almost twice as long as it actually ran.

It's a very, very long time for a single show to remain on television, putting aside questions of declining quality (it was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series for its first seven seasons, and then never again) and declining ratings (remember, this was once the most popular show on television, and it didn't drop out of the top five until its tenth season). We'll be taking a few more looks at the show this week as it rides off into the sunset, but the hype this week isn't undeserved.