Case Number 15502


Universal // 1975 // 1033 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ben Saylor (Retired) // January 21st, 2009

The Charge

"Station 51, KMG 365."

Opening Statement

Rampart, this is Squad 51. We have a five-disc DVD set of Emergency! Season Five, episodes are approximately 34 years old, set appears to have been given a lackluster, near-barebones release by Universal. Stand by for vitals...

Facts of the Case

Emergency! follows the daily (and sometimes nightly) activities of both a Los Angeles County fire station as well as the emergency room staff at Rampart General Hospital. Firefighter/paramedics John Gage (Randolph Mantooth, As the World Turns) and Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe, Eight Men Out), along with the rest of Station 51, treat victims of a variety of injuries and ailments. Once taken to Rampart, these victims are treated by Drs. Brackett (Robert Fuller), Early (Bobby Troup) and Morton (Ron Pinkard) along with head nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London, Man of the West).

The Evidence

I was an Emergency! novice going into this review, but after watching several episodes I didn't need an EKG strip to tell me the show followed a distinct pattern. Each episode generally has Gage and DeSoto responding to a variety of incidents that are interspersed with some sort of station-related subplot that is more often than not light in tone, such as firefighter Chet Kelly's (Tim Donnelly) efforts to restore a pair of scratched skis, or Gage's quest to replace the firehouse T.V. set after he set the previous unit on fire. I don't know if Emergency! was always this silly, but some of these side stories get old fast (although they aren't all goofy; one episode has DeSoto and Gage working with a female trainee). Anyway, by the end of a given episode, you can pretty much bet that some kind of major fire that requires the participation of all of Station 51 will come along. During all of the emergency response scenes, all clowning around disappears, and the men become disciplined and precise professionals.

As my colleague Judge Kristin Munson pointed out in her review of season four of this show, Emergency!, unlike E.R., is unencumbered by endless subplots about the characters' personal lives, meaning that the bulk of a given Emergency! episode is dedicated to the many, many different kinds of incidents Gage and DeSoto find themselves responding to. In season five alone, you'll find a parachutist caught on a power line, several different car/traffic accidents, heart attacks, suicide attempts, a landslide, and even a catfish whisker sting. While it goes without saying that the medical techniques employed on the show are not the way things are done today, that's also part of the show's appeal, at least for newcomers like myself. It helps that many of the emergency situations are actually quite suspenseful despite the fact that victims on this show tend to pull through.

Like Adam-12 before it, acting/character is mostly irrelevant on a show like Emergency! given the focus on the characters in their professional world. The staff of Rampart General, especially, are nearly interchangeable when it comes to personality. Gage and DeSoto, at least, are two distinct characters; Gage is prone to harebrained schemes like trying wire a tape recorder to the squad's radio and the afore-mentioned T.V. business, whereas bemused family man DeSoto is the more levelheaded voice of reason. Kelly is the station cutup, and Capt. Stanley (Michael Norell, who also wrote four episodes) is the no-nonsense leader who refers to his firefighters as "pal" and, at least one time, "babe" while on-scene.

Universal packages the 22 episodes of Emergency! Season Five on five discs (the packaging erroneously lists 24 episodes) in three slim cases, with episode synopses printed on the back of each case. While the discs are all single-sided (not always the case with Emergency! on DVD) the technical quality is similar to what Judge Munson described for Season Four. These transfers are in very poor shape, with all manner of scratches, blotches, and blurriness. At best, the image is passable. At worst, it evokes a VHS taped off T.V. The sound, while nothing great itself, seems about right for a show of this vintage. In terms of extras, this season has just one, but it's actually pretty good: an episode of Adam-12 featuring the cast of Emergency!. The image and sound on this bonus are much better than that of the main attraction here, and since Adam-12 DVD releases are being handled by Shout! Factory now, I guess that shouldn't come as a surprise.

Closing Statement

51, go ahead and tell readers that despite the quality of the show itself, extreme caution should be exercised when purchasing this DVD in light of the weak technical signs here.

The Verdict

The show itself is not guilty, but Universal sure is for indifferently dumping these episodes onto DVD.

Review content copyright © 2009 Ben Saylor; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 68
Audio: 83
Extras: 80
Acting: 85
Story: 88
Judgment: 78

Perp Profile
Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

* English

Running Time: 1033 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Crossover with Adam-12

* IMDb