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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Emergency!: Season Two (1972/1973)

"We haven't got much time!"
- John Gage (Randolph Mantooth)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: February 22, 2006

Stars: Robert Fuller, Bobby Troup, Kevin Tighe, Randolph Mantooth, Julie London
Other Stars: Ron Pinkard, Michael Norell, Tim Donnelly, Marco López, Mike Stoker, Vince Howard, Roland Barton, Patricia Mickey, Deidre Hall, Sam Lanier, Lloyd Bochner, Kevin Dobson, Richard Jaeckel, John Travolta, Henry Jones, Joseph Perry, Cathy Lee Crosby, Dennis Patrick, Kip Niven, Michael Rupert, Larry Storch, Kelly Troup, Ronne Troup, Sharon Gless, J. Pat O'Malley, Jackie Coogan, Robert Pratt, Janit Baldwin, Leslie Charleson, Dick Van Patten, Melissa Gilbert, Laurette Spang, Kathleen Lloyd, Barbara M. Benson, Jamie Farr, Virginia Paris, Ian Wolfe, Frank Maxwell, Robert Alda, Jack Carter, Dub Taylor, Michael Lerner, Beverly Sanders, Charles Aidman, Ty Henderson, Bruno Kirby, , Vic Tayback, Ray Ballard
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 17h:28m:46s
Release Date: February 07, 2006
UPC: 025192980329
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-B+B+ D+

DVD Review

When I was a young boy, there was a volunteer firehall down the road from our house. Every now and then the neighborhood would hear the wailing of the siren, calling local volunteers to duty. Even though there is little resemblance between that building and Station 51, in my mind the two are inextricably linked, and revisiting Emergency! some thirty-plus years later still draws me back to that time in my life. Such is the magic of television nostalgia.

For its second year, Jack Webb's (Adam-12) series depicting the lives of a pair of Los Angeles area paramedics and the hospital staff at Rampart General, would expand to 21 episodes. The format remains the same: each week follows John Gage and Roy DeSoto on their daily duties, facing a wide range of calls, from the extreme to the mundane. The emergency situations are interspersed with the goings on at the firehall and around the hospital, giving a glimpse into the lives of the often unsung heroes whose job it is to save people's lives. As rescues are Squad 51's specialty, Gage and DeSoto attend automobile and plane crashes, pull people from burning buildings, deal with suicide attempts, drug overdoses or medical emergencies. While most stick to the regular cast for the running storylines, a couple of episodes feature repeat calls, including a woman who believes the ghost of her sister is haunting her house and another whose anxiety over a dinner party gets her into a slew of trouble.

As a kid, Emergency! was one of few shows that could be both entertaining and educational, and that still holds true today. It was the first series to realistically portray the lives of firefighters, and it is also credited with helping spread the then newly launched field of paramedic aid. Each hour-long show covers a range of rescue and medical situations, which, in its original broadcast era, provided many in its audience with their first exposure to the symptoms of many common ailments, from heart attacks to poisoning. With a steady parade of hardware, we got our first look at the tools of the fire-fighting trade, from the Porta Power or the many uses of the Jaws of Life, to the variety of engines that get called into play during the larger fires. Whether riding along as the trucks roll out on call, or seeing the ladder trucks, Siphon, rescue boats or ambulances on location, we're right in on the action, racing against time to rescue someone from a house fire, performing first aid while hanging precariously over the edge of a ravine, or climbing up the skeletal framing of a huge tower. From a youthful perspective, the rescue situations also served as an example of things that young boys should not be doing in their playtime, like crawling down manholes, climbing into tree hollows, or riding their bikes out between parked cars on busy streets. There are a lot of valuable lessons to be found.

A number of serious topics are brought to attention in this season, including child abuse, alcoholism, drunk driving, and the importance of the Medic Alert tags. Household hazards, including lead paint poisoning, chemical interactions, and kitchen appliance safety are also covered. There are also many references to drugs, from methamphetamines to barbituates, and the presentation does a good job of pointing out the dangers of these substances without getting preachy, instead detailing the side effects of their abuse as seen by the medical profession. The writing doesn't sugarcoat the cases being handled with fairy tale endings either—despite the best efforts of the paramedics and hospital staff, the patients often die as a result of their injuries or maladies. Foreshadowing the frantic hand-held styles seen in many of today's hospital dramas, there are numerous operating room sequences that employ the technique to heighten tension. The resistance to the newly launched paramedic program by some doctors and patients is also depicted.

Despite the sobering circumstances the cast are often presented with, Emergency! balances the drama with a healthy dose of humor as appropriate, and the chemistry between the characters continues to be a major attraction. The single Gage, always on the prowl for a date, and married DeSoto always have some kind of conflict brewing, whether because the other is interfering in their personal lives, or simply over petty issues. Chet Kelly (Tim Donelly, whose brother Don directed two of these episodes), the third cog in the wheel at the firehall, is always ready to needle his coworkers, with John often winding up the brunt of the joke.

Season Two introduces hall mascot Boot, who appears in several episodes, as does Vince Howard as the seemingly lone LAPD Officer Vince. There are a number of recognizable guest stars to be found here, including John Travolta as an injured hiker (Kids), Cathy Lee Crosby (Virus) and Bruno Kirby (Seance) as overdose patients, Sharon Gless (Cagney & Lacey) as the Fuzz Lady, Dick van Patten (Eight is Enough) as a man with his hand stuck in a carburetor, and look for a very young Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie) in Dinner Date.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Overall, things continue to look very good in the transfer department. Colors remain well saturated (the reds particularly hot), and detail level is high. The source prints are in good condition, with only the odd shot here and there having any noticible debris. A few of the episodes look like they come from a later generation print, evidenced by slightly poorer contrast, and less shadow detail. There is a bit of interference on grills. That said, this looks far better than I remember it looking broadcast.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is respectable, and for the most part, free of any technical abnormalities. There is a bit of static and a short dropout in Kids, but other than that, no major complaints. Dialogue is easy to discern.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 84 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Northern Exposure, the Battlestar Galactica, Revelations, Law and Order, Leave it to Beaver, Miami Vice, Cleopatra 2525, Earth 2, Sliders, American Gothic, The Munsters, Kolchak:The Night Stalker
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There are no extras to speak of, other than a collection of trailers for Northern Exposure, the first and second seasons of Battlestar Galactica, Revelations, Law and Order, Leave It to Beaver, Miami Vice and a pair of themed trailers that include Cleopatra 2525/Earth 2/Sliders and American Gothic/The Munsters/Kolchak:The Night Stalker. Each is accessable from the menu, and not front loaded.

Episodes can be played all at once, or individually selected, with a brief synopsis and chapter menus. There is now a chapter mark immedaitely following the opening theme.

Packaging takes a bit of a change, as the discs are now in three thinpaks housed in a matte-finished box. A minor nitpick is that some of the images used on the covers are not from this season, most notably the engine on the back cover of the cases.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

While many series have tried to follow in its footsteps, Emergency! is still at the top of its class, and watching these episodes brings back that inner child inspired to become a firefighter. Although Universal hasn't donned the series with any more bells and whistles than it had originally, the quality of the content makes this an easy recommendation. Ten four, KMG 365.


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