Studio: Universal Studios
US DVD Release Date: January 20, 2009
Movie: out of
Back in the 1970s, Saturday evenings was not a vast wasteland for the television networks, and they actually broadcast new, original, scripted programs that also attracted ratings. Most people my age fondly remember those times, sitting down in front of the family television, dressed in their pajamas, eagerly awaiting what brave rescues the men of Fire Squad 51 would perform on Emergency!. The series ran on NBC in the 8:00 pm timeslot from 1972 thru 1977, and followed the careers of two paramedics at Los Angeles County Fire Station 51, John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (a kinder, gentler Kevin Tighe), emergency room doctors Joe Early (Bobby Troup) and Kelly Bracket (Robert Fuller), and nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London). Each episode was self-contained, in that there is no continuing storyline, which lead to the show’s popularity among children in both first-run and syndication. The series also helped to popularize the paramedics program nationwide. When I saw Robert Fuller at a Classic TV Shows panel at the EMA Home Media Expo in Las Vegas last summer, he said, with great pride, that people still come up to him and tell him that Emergency! inspired them to become a paramedic, an EMT, or find a career in emergency medicine. In the midst of posting this review, a teenager outstide my house required medical attention, and I found myself calling the Newport Beach Paramedics to assist the young man. They arrived in less than 10 minutes.
Season 5 consists of 22 episodes (although the box erroneously states that “all 24 gripping episodes” are included in this set), and featured guest appearances by Bernard Fox (Hogan’s Heroes), Sharon Gless (Cagney & Lacey), Wolfman Jack, Lucille Benson (Duel, 1941), Dick Van Patten (Eight Is Enough), Ruth Buzzi (Laugh-In), and Gretchen Corbett (Rockford Files) who appears in both the season premiere and finale as two very different characters.
Video: out of
At first, I thought that time had not been kind to this series, considering the unstable film stocks used in the mid 1970s and early 1980s. Reds are oversaturated, flesh tones are way too pink, detail is often lacking, and many of the episodes contain visible dirt along with green emulsion and black scratches. Occasionally, the picture will flutter, and there are jump cuts and visible splices on some of the episodes.
Then, something happened that made my heart sink even further. During the last four minutes of episode 22, The Nuisance, a persistent, rolling dropout appears and continually gets worse until the episode ends.
Apparently, these are not recent tranfers, and the DVD was most likely mastered from older syndication videotapes. Emergency! deserves much better, and the video on this release is not acceptable from a major studio like Universal.
Audio: out of
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio on this release is only slightly better than the video. Due to age of the material, I expected it to sound compressed, but much of the visible dirt is also audible, likely meaning the episodes were transferred from prints with an optical soundtrack.
Special Features: out of
Included on this set is a 1972 crossover episode from Adam-12. The video and audio quality of this bonus episode is almost a complete 180 degree difference from the included Emergency episodes. Black levels are good, flesh tomes are accurate, and the print is pristine.
Overall: out of
This set is for die-hard fans of Emergency! who have found that their old VHS tapes of the show are beginning to deteriorate. Buyer beware...
This DVD was reviewed on the following home theater gear:
- Toshiba 56HM66 DLP HDTV
- Sony Playstation 3 (outputting to 1080i)
- Yamaha HTR-5940 Home Theater Receiver (in 5.1 configuration)
- Yamaha NS-AP2600 Home Cinema Speaker Package
- Yamaha YST-SW010 subwoofer