Judge Ben Saylor is not a doctor, but he watches them on TV.
Our reviews of ER: The Complete Third Season (published July 20th, 2005), ER: The Complete Fifth Season (published August 23rd, 2006), ER: The Complete Sixth Season (published January 24th, 2007), ER: The Complete Eighth Season (published March 5th, 2008), ER: The Complete Ninth Season (published October 1st, 2008), ER: The Complete Tenth Season (published May 13th, 2009), ER: The Complete Fourteenth Season (published April 7th, 2011), ER: The Complete First Season (published October 6th, 2004), and ER: The Final Season (published August 25th, 2011) are also available.
Let's run the board…
It's business as usual in Chicago's County General Hospital for season 12 of ER. The team of doctors and nurses (almost none of whom were with the show from season 1) again faces myriad medical emergencies along with plenty of personal and professional crises. Based on my admittedly little experience with the show, Season 12 appears to follow the formula, and as such, ends up being entertaining television.
Facts of the Case
SPOILERS In Season 12, the ER is shaken up by the arrivals of new attending physician Victor Clemente (John Leguizamo, Empire), a brilliant doc with a chaotic personal life, and hard-driving chief nurse Eve Peyton (Kristen Johnston, 3rd Rock from the Sun). Along the way, doctors Neela Rasgotra (Parminder Nagra, Bend It Like Beckham) and Michael Gallant (Sharif Atkins) decide to get married, chief of emergency medicine Luka Kovac (Goran Visnjic, Elektra) and resident Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney, Liar Liar) conceive a child, and doc Gregory Pratt (Mekhi Phifer, Clockers) travels to Darfur and mentors a hospital volunteer.
For many of the characters of ER's 12th season, this is the first time I've seen them on the show. Accordingly, I don't really have the connection to them that I might have had I been a more regular viewer of the show. Still, the writers know these characters well and present them in a clear and consistent manner, and before long, I felt like I knew my way around. Some people I've talked to about the show tell me they stopped watching it after original cast members like George Clooney and Anthony Edwards left the series (in seasons 5 and 8, respectively). Not having seen any of the early seasons, I don't have quite the same position, but having previously reviewed season 8, I can say that the show does not benefit from the absence of characters such as Edwards' Greene or Noah Wyle's Carter (who turns up briefly in Season 12). Still, rather than whining about it not being as good as it used to be, let's focus on the season itself.
The series veterans are all in fine form with Season 12. Goran Visnjic's Kovac has really come into his own on the show by this point, and his quiet, authoritative presence is a huge strength for this season. Between his new responsibilities as chief of emergency medicine, his romantic entanglements with nurse Samantha Taggart (Linda Cardellini, Scooby-Doo) and Lockhart, as well as his professional clashes with Clemente, his character is given a lot to do, and Visnjic handles it all with aplomb. One noteworthy moment for his character is an episode involving a pregnant teenager. Her parents are very religious and insist that their daughter have the baby, but she can't go through with it. This leads to a clash between Neela Rasgotra and Kovac, when the former accuses the latter of letting his feelings as a Catholic interfere with what is best for the patient.
Maura Tierney's Abby Lockhart is another stalwart character, and Tierney is, as ever, wholly natural, believable and sympathetic in the role. Lockhart is still learning the ropes of being an ER doc, and on top of that, has to grapple with her pregnancy and her feelings for Kovac. In one episode this season, she struggles to help Dr. Nate Lennox (Emmy-nominated guest star James Woods), a mentor who has been stricken with ALS. Lockhart wants him to keep fighting, as he inspired her to do while going through medical school, but Lennox and his caregiver are resistant. This episode is particularly effective in that it tugs the viewer's sympathies in several directions.
To address the rest of the characters' Season 12 travails is beyond the scope of this review, so I'll focus on a few instead. Parminder Nagra's Neela Rasgotra has a lot going on this season; she's taking steps to become a surgeon, and she not only gets married but also becomes a widow. The grieving process Rasgotra goes through is at once powerful and not quite what I would have expected. I also enjoyed Scott Grimes as (chief) resident joker Dr. Archie Morris. Although his character is almost strictly comic relief, after the heaviness of many of these episodes, a few laughs are more than welcome. Finally, there's Mekhi Phifer as Dr. Greg Pratt. When he was first introduced in Season 8, Pratt was prickly and full of bravado. He's matured considerably since then, as we see in his interactions with "volunteen" KJ (Jordan Calloway), and in the aftermath of his Darfur experience. By the end of the season, Pratt is grappling not only with grief over Gallant's death, but also over a bad error in judgment on his own part.
Attending physician Victor Clemente also plays a key role in Season 12. Played with increasingly manic intensity by John Leguizamo, over the course of Clemente's arc, we see him go from being a gifted-but-annoying physician to a paranoid, babbling mess. Leguizamo gives a strong performance as Clemente, but his storyline is an example of the kind of histrionic excess that rankles me about ER.
Clemente's storyline is not the only instance in which ER goes over the top in Season 12; we also get a kidnapping/hostage situation to close out the season. (To add insult to injury, one of the kidnapping victims is Taggart, who already spent the first episode of the season desperately trying to find her runaway son Alex (Dominic Janes), who is also kidnapped at the end of the season. In between these incidents there's also a plane crash in the middle of Chicago. (The writers must have got bored with helicopter-related accidents.)
And if kidnappings, plane crashes, and psychotic cop stalkers (the latter is part of Clemente's storyline) weren't enough, the show also takes on Darfur and the war in Iraq. Although these episodes have their moments of finger wagging and speechifying, at least they're topical, and any excuse to bring Carter back is a good one.
ER: The Complete Twelfth Season arrives on DVD in a 6-disc set that contains the season's 22 episodes. The discs are housed in a thick, sturdy plastic case that slides into a cardboard sleeve. Image and sound quality are both strong, which is unsurprising given the season's recent vintage. (It aired between 2005 and 2006.) The packaging lists English and French subtitles, but the discs actually have Chinese and Portuguese subtitles as well. Extras are minimal, as is the case with ER on DVD; in this case, 16 episodes have outtakes. In a departure from previous releases, no gag reel is included here.
Whether you purchase ER: The Complete Twelfth Season depends largely on your opinion of the show's cast at this point in the series' history. (ER ended three seasons later.) I enjoyed watching these episodes, but I don't know that I would revisit them much down the road.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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