Emergency: Season Two
Over the years television has had great success with series that concentrated on police, firemen, emergency medical technicians and hospitals. It too the fertile creative mind of Jack Webb to combine them all and provide the American television audience a great source of entertainment, Emergency. While every episode has a ‘big run’ where all stops are pulled out for some huge call for help, most of the stories are realistically about the work these unsung heroes do on an everyday basis. In season two Paramedics John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe) are assigned to Fire Station 51 in Los Angles County. It is their job to stabilize and transport accident victims and those in need of medical attention to the hospital. Once they got the patient out of immediate danger they would take him to Rampart Hospital where Dr. Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller) and Dr. Joe Early (Bobby Troup) with the help of head nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London) would decide on what to do next. Also involved in the rescues where the fire men. The squad joker Chet Kelly (Tim Donnelly) was always able to bring a laugh to his compatriots but when the flames were endangering others he went into action. I often watched this series with my father-in-law who was a Chief in the New York City Fire Department. The stories he would tell of his time on the job often mirrored what this series presented. People dedicate to helping others whose days where filled with the routine and the extraordinary.
The hallmark of any Jack Webb series, what made them stand out from the similar shows on television, was his attention to details. Many of his shows are still used as part of training for the police and fire departments. Each episode of Emergency depicted roughly a shift at work. During that time there would be spectacular feats of heroism but more often than not the work was mundane. While some childe this aspect of the series as boring we should consider it as Webb intended. There is something special about EMTs, Firemen and Police even under the most routine of circumstances. In the season opener Roy and John have to rescue a man caught under a car engine that fell on him. Their radios failed leaving them without the legally required advice and permissions from the doctors at Rampart. Thinking only of saving the man’s life they act anyway. Eventually the victim’s doctor uses the incident to attack the paramedic program. While these programs are common place now back in the mid seventies they where very new and often controversial. During this same episode we also have the bizarre as the must respond to a man gored by a bull and the dramatic as Roy rescues a child from a blazing building.
The series in the second season began to explore more of the personal interaction between the characters. Now that the first season has established the basic personalities of the lead characters the stories can go deeper. One such episode in season two is ‘Trainee’. A new paramedic trainee is assigned to Roy and John. He is aptly qualified have serving time in Vietnam as a medic. Unfortunately, his work under such difficult combat conditions has left him psychologically unwilling to submit to the supervision of the doctors at Rampart. After so long without any oversight he feels he knows more than the doctors. In another episode, ‘Rip-Off’, John and Roy are accused of stealing money from one of the victims they rescued. They have to continue to work as they prove they are innocent.
The human stories are more than just filler between rescues, Webb and his writers always showed the human toll on the people that put their lives on the line each day. Webb was able to demonstrate that although not every call required dramatic action they all mattered to the people involved. This series also showed the teamwork required to save lives. The firemen helped extract the victims, the paramedics got them stable and ready for transport and the doctors and nurses took it from there. Each was vital to the lives of those they helped.
Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth had the chemistry required to pull off their roles. They are able to sell their roles as partners and friends. They where paramedics that had to think fast, lives where on the line. Webb was obviously not a man that held on to any sort of grudge. In the fifties Julie London was married to Webb but during the filming of the series she was the wife of co-star Bobby Troup. Not many producers now would hire their ex-wife and current husband. They reason Webb did was simple, they were just right for their parts. London was the seasoned nurse, around long enough to know more practical medicine than some of the doctors she has to help train. Troup gave his character an innate wisdom needed for a senior doctor. Robert Fuller was the heart throb younger doctor who often butted heads with is superiors but always with professionalism.
As with all Jack Webb, Mark VII productions this is perfect entertainment for the whole family. It instills a respect for the city’s uniform services while giving the thrills and drama we want when escaping into a television series. Webb respected these people no matter how big or small the case before them was. He did continue his life long campaign against drug abuse here showing that not only the street drugs are dangerous but also the abuse of prescription medications. Webb gave the audience entertainment and a bit of education always respecting the intelligence of his audience.
Universal has been releasing classic television series like this for awhile. There are a couple of things that many would like Universal to address with releases like this second season of Emergency. There are no extras here. It would have been great to have at least a little featurette on the production culled from some behind the scenes footage. The use of two sided discs has been problematic for some but during my review the discs worked well. The full screen video had some signs of the age of the material. There were a few white specks present and a little loss of detail in the contrast but overall the video quality is better than seen in syndication. The Dolby mono audio does the job with acceptable response over the middle of the audio spectrum. Even with this said this is a great addition to any home’s collection. This show was the grandfather of many current hits. When you get tired of watching constant reruns pop this in and enjoy some good old fashion entertainment.