"Emergency!" was my favorite television show as a young boy. I was fascinated by the action and the quick decisions the cast made and how cool they were under pressure. I hadn't seen the series in several decades, but recently watched season one (plus the two hour pilot "The Wedsworth-Townsend Act", which is maybe the most boring title for an exciting show ever) on DVD. Some things aren't as good as you remember from childhood, but this was. I was really pleased with how well the show holds up today and thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much that I got the entire series in a box set. It's true that the chemistry of the cast gelled better in later seasons, likewise, it's also true there are a few pieces of overacted melodrama on display here (mostly from guest stars and actors with bit parts), but it's a real gem that's still a pleasure to watch. This show really helped promote paramedic and EMS programs in their formative years, and that's a public service of the highest order that few shows can hope to compare to.
The DVD set opens with "The Wedsworth-Townsend Act", the two hour pilot directed (and produced) by the famous Jack Webb; I loved that the opening episode featured appearances from Martin Milner and Kent McCord in their "Adam-12" characters (I also loved the subplot about "Adam-12", another Webb production, later in the season), and immediately set about establishing who the characters were, what the interpersonal dynamics between them are, and what the equipment does as Johnny Gage (Randolph Mantooth) gets recruited for the new paramedic program by instructor Roy DeSoto. The hospital heavies are also fleshed out, starting with the domineering and somewhat arrogant Dr. Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller), the easygoing Dr. Joe Early (Bobby Troup), and Troup's real life wife (and Jack Webb's ex-wife!) nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London), the calm foundation of Rampart Hospital. There's some legislative drama and a major emergency at the end which requires Brackett to make a timely decision he is really conflicted about, but it works well. The pilot is a bit slow compared to the later shows, but it firms up Roy and Johnny as a dedicated team in the brand new Station 51.
The 11 episodes of the first season are all good and involve three or four emergencies per episode and a lot of interpersonal character development that gets better as the show progresses (I love the little snippets of characterization that run through the series: Johnny's obsession with practical jokes; Roy being a terrible cook, Johnny's invention of a new type of poker game, etc.) From a perspective four decades later, some things will really pop out at you: cigarettes being smoked in hospital hallways, no HIPAA considerations whatsoever, buying groceries for the entire fire station for $9.03, etc., but the risk and drama still play as well as they did in 1972.
If you liked "Emergency!" when it was on television, give it another look; I think you'll be thrilled with how it stands up today; if you have never seen the show, this is a great place to start and I recommend the set highly.
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