NBC's Dateline aired a special show
on the 200th episode of ER and I just happened to flip by.
ER was originally “EW” (for “Emergency Ward”), a movie screenplay by Michael Crichton penned in 1974. He shopped it unsuccessfully for over 10 years, until Steven Spielberg bought it in the late 80s. The dinosaur-thing delayed it until ‘94, when Spielberg decided TV series and NBC decided to go for a pilot.
The pilot for ER, (again, co-written by Michael Crichton, directed by Steven Spielberg, y'know ... lightweights), was initially turned down by NBC executives. Completely. They have a zillion shows every season, and there was no spot for it. Warner Brothers, the money behind the show, did some audience screenings and they were off the chart. NBC, astonished, did the same, and their scores were even better. NBC quickly changed their mind.
And what's the lesson Spielberg takes away from all of this?
Well, I think it's a moral for all of us, that none of us know anything. Everybody thinks we have a crystal ball. There's no such thing, you just have to always fly by the seat of your pants and do the best work you can do. Everything is a mystery.