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John Wells rules out ER and West Wing revivals but is plotting Southland return

Noah Wyle in ER

Story by Jack Foley

FAMED producer John Wells, the man behind TV classics ER and The West Wing, has ruled out returning to either show for any kind of revival.

In an interview with US trade publication Variety, Wells said that the possibility of reviving both shows has long been suggested to him. But while he never had any plans to revisit Chicago’s ER, the time isn’t right for re-entering The White House given the current state of US politics.

However, he has refused to rule out a return for critically-acclaimed LA-set cop show Southland, which he feels was cancelled prematurely, and which remains relevant today.

With ER back in people’s minds following its debut on Hulu in the US [where it has become as popular as ever], Wells was asked whether he fancied reviving the show at a time when TV networks are bringing back a number of old favourites.

But dashing the hopes of millions of viewers, Wells said: “The interest in [more] ER started virtually a year after we went off the air. NBC was asking us to put it back on the air. [But] I have no interest in doing it again. We did that show and we did it very well. I was very proud of it. We had so many wonderful people come through the show over the years.

“But now other talented people have picked up the medical show banner and carried it bravely forward. Shonda [Rhimes] came in and has done a fabulous job with Grey’s Anatomy. House with [showrunner] David Shore was a great show.”

As for The West Wing, Wells feels the current divide in US politics would mean that a return for the show would potentially be too polarising.

The West Wing is the one people pester us about constantly,” he replied. “I have continued to say ‘no, we’re not going to do it’. I don’t want to do it even though it’s the one that I think there are actually ways to do it. But not given the political climate now.

“People forget that while The West Wing seemed very liberal at the time, it was actually very even-handed. We had as many Republican fans of that show as we had Democratic fans. The country is so polarized right now I think announcing that we were going to try to do any version would greatly tarnish what it was. Because I think it would be assumed to be a liberal screed rather than an opportunity to do what it was originally designed to be.

“We had our moments of standing on a soapbox, but for the most part it was about the sacrifices people made to be in government, and how difficult it was to get things done, how compromise was required… This is a fraught time to try to enter into that conversation. I think it would be a very bad idea to try to go back in now.”

As for cop drama Southland, which made household names of its ensemble players such as Ben McKenzie, Michael Cudlitz, Regina King and Shawn Hatosy, Wells feels that it “finished too soon”.

“I would love to do Southland again. We’ve tried a couple of times. It’s going to be hard because everyone’s a star now.”

Southland ran from 2009 to 2013 on NBC and TNT.