DVD Review: Emergency! season four

Watching this 1970’s action/drama series is like visting with old friends. Kevin Tighe and the impossibly skinny Randoph Mantooth return as paramedic partners Roy DeSoto and Johnny Gage in this 1970’s Jack Webb produced action/drama. There were almost no casting changes during the series entire seven-year run so we got to know these characters as well as we knew our mom’s goulash: Johnny, always the lovable doofus who fancies himself a man of the world; Roy, the steady family man who was constantly shaking his head at his partner’s flights of illogic; Chet Kelly (Tim Donovan), the station clown and practical joker; Captain Hank Stanley (Mike Norrell), easy-going by nature but still commanding respect from his men. At Rampart General Hospital, sultry head-nurse, Dixie McCall (Julie London), does all the real work while bold, young Dr Brackett (Robert Fuller) sometimes rubs his patients the wrong way and kindly Dr Joe Early (Bobby Troup) smoothes things over.

Though some of the dialog at the station is a bit dated (like Chet Kelly calling women “chicks”) the close-up view of the life of a rescue-man still fascinates. People do get themselves into some strange and harrowing predicaments and the men of station 51 must think on their feet to extricate them. In one episode, Johnny and Roy hang from the side of a building in a high wind to rescue an unconscious worker who was injured when the heavy marquee he was trying to hang, breaks loose and crushes him. The firemen must figure out how to get to the man without being smashed by the wildly-swinging sign. In another, a woman is thrown from her motorcycle and has the good fortune to land in a patch of nice, soft cactus. How do Johnny and Roy free the woman without bringing the entire patch of cactus down on her and themselves? And how
do they deal with the woman’s husband, constantly yelling at her to stop screaming?

One thing you will miss in Season Four: they replaced the cool, jazzy theme song with sound bites of the paramedic’s radio conversations with the hospital. It would be one thing if they changed the dialog week to week, but it’s always the same thing: “Rampart, the victim is in EXTREME PAIN.” No more “Dah dah dada DAAH DAH, dah dah dada DAAAAAH dah, dah dah
dada DAAAAAAAAAAH dah dada dah dahhhhhh!” (I realize that last sentence won’t make any sense to you if you’ve never heard the theme song but real fans of the series will get a pleasant whoosh-memory from it.)

Unfortunately, only die-hard fans will truly enjoy this release. Apparently Universal HomeEntertainment didn’t think Emergency! would make them enough money on DVD to justify spending any money on this compilation. The sound quality in many episodes is poor. I was constantly fiddling with the volume in order to hear the dialog. Then I would have to dive for the remote again to turn it down for the exciting driving-through-the-streets-with-the-siren-blaring sequences. There are also no cool extras. Universal should shell out some cash to get Randy Mantooth and Kev Tighe into the studio for some commentary. And commentary from Julie London and Bobby Troup could be quite dishy. London was producer Jack Webb’s ex-wife and was married to Troup throughout the run of the series. Unfortunately, Julie and Bobby are dead so Universal has completely missed that boat.

I sent an email to Universal Home Entertainment about the quality of the release and the lack of extras. If you bought this set and would like to contact them, here is their website:
http://homevideo.universalstudios.com/home_ent_content.html

Order Emergency season 4 from Amazon.

Naomi Krueger

For more reviews from Naomi, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.