Just because Noah Wyle wants to take an extended break from ''ER'' doesn't mean he wants to leave the emergency room for good. In fact, according to the Hollywood Reporter, he's just signed a one-year contract extension that will keep his Dr. John Carter in scrubs through the 2004-05 season, which will mark the show's (and Wyle's) 11th year. The deal also will allow Wyle to make his directing debut, giving him behind-the-camera duties on two episodes of the series.
Wyle's camp announced earlier this week that he'd be taking a long break this fall, one that might last until November, so that he could spend more time with his family (wife Tracy and their first child, 9-month-old son Owen). According to the Reporter, however, he'll miss only three episodes. And his break will be not just for family time, but also to give him a window to appear in the independent feature ''The Californians,'' an update of Henry James' novel ''The Bostonians'' that will costar Illeana Douglas. That would mark a rare starring role for Wyle, whose film career consists largely of supporting parts in such movies as ''White Oleander'' and ''Enough.'' And you thought doctors spent their time off only on the golf course.