Warner Bros. // 2003 // 987 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // May 13th, 2009
Experience: the best teacher and the toughest.
ER: The Complete Tenth Season brings the same intensity, freakishly bad luck, and misery to its long-suffering tenured doctors and nurses.
The emergency room in County General Hospital is the place where the crazy never stops in Chicago, not even for a second. Floods of new patients, crumbing infrastructure, and fractured personal lives all contribute to a very hectic working environment for the staff of County. ER: The Complete Tenth Season contains all 22 episodes, spread over six discs:
* "Now What?"
Carter (Noah Wyle) returns from Africa, but his homecoming isn't quite what he expected. New intern Neela Rasgotra (Parminder Nagra) reports for duty as the hospital gets renovated.
* "The Lost"
Carter goes back to the Congo in search of Kovac (Goran Visnjic). In doing so, he finds a purpose and a new love interest.
* "Dear Abby"
Abby (Maura Tierney) gets a Dear John letter from Carter, while Romano freaks out about his prosthetic hook. He takes his ire out on the nurses, who threaten revolt.
* "Shifts Happen"
Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) oversees a chaotic graveyard shift, trying to keep a swarm of inexperienced residents and nurses in check.
* "Out Of Africa"
Kovac returns to the ER in time to meet nurse Taggart (Linda Cardellini). Abby joins as a med student, but has a hard time leaving her nursing behind. Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) cares for a senior struggling with deteriorating vision.
* "The Greater Good"
Kovac and Pratt clash over their duties and differing styles as physicians as each tries to justify saving a life over the suffering of another.
* "Death and Taxes"
Sam brings her son Alex into the ER, and he bonds with Kovac. Gallant (Sharif Atkins) attends to the transport of a cancer patient.
Romano has an unfortunate encounter with a helicopter -- again. The dude has some seriously bad luck.
Attendance at Romano's memorial is light to say the least. Most of the ER staff avoids it like the plague. The Amish invade the ER.
Carter continues his work in the Congo at Christmastime and falls for AIDS worker Makemba "Kem" (Thandie Newton).
* "Touch and Go"
Carter returns from Africa with Kem. Kovac considers submitting his letter of resignation. Pratt's impulsiveness has mixed results -- one good, one bad.
Abby and Neela begin their three-week rotations in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
* "Get Carter"
Kem spends the day in the ER, observing American medical practices and influencing people's views.
* "Impulse Control"
Carter's romantic tryst with Kem leads to unexpected results. Pratt and Abby hold a TB patient against his will, and Sam makes a play for Kovac.
* "Blood Relations"
Neela enters a hyperbolic chamber and discovers she is very claustrophobic. Sam has second thoughts about her and Kovac. Chen (Ming-Na) returns to the ER.
* "Forgive and Forget"
Frank becomes an unexpected patient after his heart gives out. A veteran with a grudge against the ER steals a tank and comes calling.
* "The Student"
Carter encourages Neela to be more assertive to ace her residency rating, which leads to tragic results.
* "Where There's Smoke"
The legal department starts investigating the death of the patient Neela treated, while the ER struggles to save injured firefighters.
* "Just A Touch"
A patient charges Pratt with sexual harassment after a breast exam. Weaver (Laura Innes) struggles to keep custody of her son. Sam's ex-boyfriend re-emerges unexpectedly to complicate her relationship with Kovac.
* "Abby Normal"
Abby uses a controversial treatment to uncover the cause of a young woman's seizures. Neela gets involved in Ph.D. student misadventures.
Graduation day, and Abby and Neela come to terms with their life direction. Carter and Kem have some bad news on the pregnancy front.
Carter copes with his grief by throwing himself into his work. Sam goes on the run from her ex. Neela struggles with her internship, and Dr. Abby Lockhart is born. Pratt and Chen get into the wrong car at the wrong time.
Even for ER, a show that isn't normally a funhouse full of happy clowns, Season 10 is particularly grim and depressing. Here, the creators really do a number on their beloved characters, opting to make them suffer in more elaborate and inventive ways than ever before. A short recap (spoilers) of pertinent events in this season includes Weaver losing custody of her beloved, long fought for baby; Romano getting @#$% by Murphy's Law and having another encounter with the wrong end of a helicopter; Kovac's and Carter's ugly experiences in Africa; Carter and his new lady friend delivering a dead baby, which annihilates their relationship; Abby stressing out over her medical board results; Sam's scummy ex rolling back into town; Frank having a heart attack; Gallant getting shipped off to Iraq; and Chen having to deal with her ailing and deteriorating father before she and Pratt get shot to hell in a gunfight. Pure sadism at its finest! And they kept the dramatic train rolling for another five years after this. It's amazing they had anyone left to torture.
Transition is the name of the game in ER: The Complete Tenth Season. At this point, with so much of the old guard have retired, been exploded, moved on, or otherwise departed the show for greener pastures, the few senior staffers still lingering about get some heavy setup for their eventual departures in Season 10. Carter's storyline lays the eggs that eventually spur his exit. Weaver is still around, but from this point on essentially acts as a supporting character, her screen time diminished noticeably; Chen and Corday are likewise on their way out the door very shortly. Meanwhile, we see an influx of new faces, like intern Neela Rasgotra, resident Archie Morris, and nurse Samantha Taggart, all of whom become integral cast members in the final five seasons. This is a "love it or hate it" time for fans of ER as the show desperately tries to reinvigorate itself. Most shows don't make it for an entire decade, let alone another five years after that. The writers and producers looked to shake things up, and shake them up they did.
Violent and troubling as some of the episode arcs may be, there are some phenomenal performances here; Noah Wyle delivers some truly heartbreaking scenes after the loss of his on-screen child, and a cameo by the normally funny Bob Newhart as an architect rapidly losing his sight is one of the most heart-wrenching moments in the show's history. There's nothing worse than seeing a funny man sad. My biggest problem with the show is the repetition and constant state of misery it subjects upon its characters, as if afraid to allow them all but faint glimmers of happiness. Any good event that happens to them is a setup for a particularly nasty fall in a few episodes. It's hard to get too excited about character development when it's all downhill, you know?
Technically, this set is near-identical to its predecessors: anamorphic transfer, stereo sound, and some lame supplemental features (outtakes and gag scenes). Colors are nicely saturated; primary colors in particular are vibrant, whites are clean, and blacks are balanced well.
At this point, I'm kind of numb to the whole "over the top" thing ER does to keep its narrative train barreling down on its characters. I had thought ER: The Complete Ninth Season was bad, but that was before Season 10, when someone tried to blow up the ER with a tank. You heard me right.
What more can we say? Fans won't need this review to justify adding this DVD to their collection. Now that ER is finally off the airwaves, let the massive syndication begin!
Review content copyright © 2009 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 987 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel