Judge Maurice Cobbs is now diaphoretic. Vital signs: 80 over 50; rate: 100 and irregular; respirations: 12 and shallow; the victim is in extreme pain, Rampart. V-fib! We're defibrillating victim, Rampart. Rampart? Uhhh. Rampart? Oh, crap.
Our reviews of Emergency! Season Two (published March 8th, 2006), Emergency! Season Four (published February 6th, 2008), Emergency! Season Five (published January 21st, 2009), and Emergency! The Final Rescues (published March 30th, 2011) are also available.
When the call goes out, they answer it!
I'm not going to even try to tell you that the hit 1970s TV show Emergency! isn't insanely cool. I'm not. Because this show straight-up rocks your socks off, from the swingin' theme by Nelson Riddle to the endless stream of cryptic medibabble, like, "Administer two-amp sodium bicarb, insert an airway. Start an IV, 5-1. Lactate ringers." Lactate ringers?! What the hell does that mean? Who cares? It's cool! Somebody please for the love of God lactate those damn ringers!
Actually, that's what Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe, Mumford) and Johnny Gage (Randolph Mantooth, Alien Fire) would be doing; as two firefighters who are helping to break in the brand-spankin' new paramedic program, a radical and risky new idea that would allow first-responding firefighters to render some measure of medical aid to victims at the scene of an Emergency! Of course, they receive a helping hand—and a watchful eye—from their pallies at Rampart Emergency Hospital, like the arrogant but brilliant Dr. Kelly Brackett, M.D./F.A.C.S (Robert Fuller, Megaforce), feisty head nurse Dixie McCall (the sultry jazz singer Julie London—yowza!), and the compassionate and easygoing neurosurgeon Dr. Joe Early, played by Bobby Troup, who played Tommy Dorsey in The Gene Krupa Story and composed that crazy Nat "King" Cole song Route 66.
Okay, time out for a bit of gossip. As many of you will doubtless know, the lovely Miss London was married to the future creator of Emergency!, the legendary crime-n-commie bustin' hardcase Jack Webb (who would also produce the show under his Mark VII Productions), but the couple divorced in the mid-fifties; a few years later, jammin' Julie would marry bashful Bobby Troup! Apparently, jilted Jack bore no grudges, because when Emergency! rolled around, he hired 'em both. As it happens, the two remained happily married until Bobby's death in 1999; she followed him into that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns the very next year.
With a dynamic one-two punch of edge-of-your-seat disaster-style action and terse medical drama, Emergency! thrilled audiences from it's two-hour pilot movie in 1972, "The Wedsworth-Townsend Act," until the series finally went off the air in 1977, only to return periodically as a series of two-hour prime-time movie specials. The show was so popular that it even spawned a Saturday-morning cartoon series, Emergency Plus 4! which teamed Gage and DeSoto with a quartet of loveable, demographically-sensitive kids and a their pets—including, so help me. a monkey. (Don't laugh; those kids had better resources and response times than the Department of Homeland Security).
There was no telling what sort of mayhem the boys from Station 51 would find themselves up against on a day-to-day basis. Electrocutions, tricky childbirths, dangerous industrial accidents, California brush fires, kids trapped in wells and in collapsing buildings—DeSoto and Gage handled it all. Meanwhile, over at Rampart, the staff would have their hands full with all sorts of overdoses, food poisonings, gun and knife wounds. Honestly, it's enough to make my EKG start showing ventricular arrhythmia. Some PVCs. But as long as I don't go into V-fib, I should be okay. Just to be safe, why no go ahead and start an IV with D5W, plus metaraminol, 100 milligrams and 500 CCs?
Ahhh. That's better.
Anyway, Universal has presented the entire first season of this show on DVD, and frankly, it's never looked better. It's great when you get a chance to revisit a treasured show from those thrilling days of yesteryear; it's even better when the material isn't showing it's age at all. Fortunately, this is the case with Emergency! Aside from some fairly unfortunate early '70s fashion choices and the occasional badly-speckled stock-footage shot, the show looks great and sounds great to boot. In fact, the only complaint that I have is the lack of special features—who would drop something like Emergency! on DVD without commentaries from Randy Mantooth and Kevin Tighe and retrospective documentaries and other cool stuff? This was a groundbreaking and influential show, and it deserves the five-star treatment, not this shabby type of bare-bones release that cheats the viewer out of all the great little nuggets of trivia and behind the scenes.
Hang on a tic…
Oh. Wait. This is a Universal release. Sorry. I should know better than to think that the folks at Universal might give a flying leap at a rolling donut what their customers might want in a DVD release. This is, after all, the studio that couldn't even be bothered to release the episodes of American Gothic on DVD in order; traditionally, they avoid special features material like it carries some sort of Asian bird flu. And it's a shame, too, because the folks at Universal obviously know that they have so many fantastic TV shows that audiences adore and would buy regardless; some other companies recognize the fans that love their properties and offer up all sorts of digital goodies. But not Universal. And I've made my peace with that. Sure, other fans of Universal shows keep grousing about getting stiffed in the special features department, but not me. I have no expectations from Universal anymore.
That said, Emergency! is one of the greatest blasts from the past you can get, and meshes well with those other great Mark VII shows, like Adam-12 and Dragnet. It's thrilling, it's tense, it's funny, it's cool, it's available on DVD. In short, ladies and gents, Emergency! is the balls. Don't miss it.
Station 51, KMG 365. You better believe it, buddy.
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