I was greatly surprised by how much my kids loved Emergency! Season One on DVD and happily bought Emergency! Season Two on DVD soon after. This season ran from September of 1972 to April of 1973. At that time, paramedics were something entirely new that many cities across the nation didn’t have among their first responders. To me and millions of kids like me Johnny Gage (portrayed by Randolph Mantooth) and Roy Desoto (portrayed by Kevin Tighe) were the ultimate heroes.
In this season, the characters are more fleshed out and there’s a consistency to how they behave. There are ongoing stories away from the suspense-filled rescues as well, including an ongoing friendly rivalry between Johnny and Chet Kelly (portrayed by Tim Donnelly) which definitely becomes more prominent during this season.
Johnny’s hair also started getting longer as the season wore on. One of the controversies of the series was that at the time he would have never been allowed to have his hair so long and remain a paramedic or fireman. For the actor, it was something he did as part of his Native American heritage, but it takes away from the reality of what would have been allowed for the time period.
The stories take place between the fire station, Station 51, Rampart General Hospital, or the sites they are called to. Many parts of the show are filmed outside at actual locations, rather than on soundstages. At Rampart, there are sometimes cases that the paramedics have brought in that are followed up on, and sometimes they have cases that just come into the hospital to follow up on. It all seems a lot more organized, coordinated and calm at the hospital compared to modern emergency room shows such as ER.
Doctors Early and Brackett (portrayed by Bobby Troup and Robert Fuller) are in charge, although the two seem to be bossed around more often than not by Nurse Dixie McCall (portrayed by Julie London). There’s also an African-American doctor on staff, Doctor Morton (portrayed by Ron Pinkard), which was something very unusual for this time period. What’s even better is that the writers and producers didn’t feel the need to make his character amicable or condescending. Instead, he’s somewhat acerbic and often rubs people the wrong way.
Overall, the cast is wonderful and does a terrific job. After watching this and thinking about the career paths of Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth, I can see why Tighe seemed to get better roles after the series ended. While Mantooth was considered more popular at the time Emergency! aired, it is really the moments when Roy is questioning his role as a paramedic that the acting shines through. This seems prominent in both the first and last episodes of the season.
It’s also remarkable how times have changed. In one episode when a child is left in a locked car and the paramedics break in to get him out, they are chided for “not minding their own business” and back down. They are also at a loss for what to do once they get the child out and the mother is nowhere in sight. I couldn’t imagine why they wouldn’t hang onto the child until the police department got there and turned the child over to CPS, but that just wasn’t the way things were done back then.
Although Dixie seems to boss them around a lot at the hospital, her role is still somewhat on a less prominent level than that of the male doctors. I do like Julie London’s assertiveness and that really helps save the totally sexist angle of the show. Most of the other nurses seem to be there as objects for Johnny to hit on or to stare at the doctors in awe as they perform their miracles.
What really works is the writing. Emergency! was different from other medical shows at the time since they didn’t shy away from using the actual terminology instead of dumbing down the talk between the doctors and the paramedics. I was very young when I understood what “Start and I.V. with D5W TKO” meant. This show inspired many people of my generation to go into the emergency services.
There are some notable guest stars this season as well. Diedre Hall, from the soap opera Days of Our Lives is a recurring character this season as a nurse at Rampart Hospital. Other notable guest stars include John Travolta, Sharon Gless, Lloyd Bochner, Cathy Lee Crosby, Dick Van Patten, and Robert Alda.
The print quality overall is pretty good. I had no real complaints about the picture becoming fuzzy all of a sudden while I was watching, or going in and out of focus. There were a few times when it seemed a bit grainy, but I have to say the quality overall was GOOD to VERY GOOD. The sound seems to be of good quality as well. The volume didn’t change on its own nor was there difficulty in hearing the dialogue between the characters.
The one big disappointment I have is the lack of any special features. It would have been nice to have had some commentary from the actors, or interviews where they look back on the show and what it meant to them, but there is nothing except for the episodes. Beggars can’t be choosers I guess. Since Universal hasn’t yet announced a release date for season three, I am just hoping they sometimes get through all the years of this show.
My kids really enjoyed watching Emergency! Season Two on DVD, both my eleven-year-old and six-year-old. It’s something that is clean for the whole family. There are some suspenseful situations, and occasionally people do die, but it’s none of the main characters which means the kids won’t form an attachment to a character and have to deal with a loss in that respect. Some of the references are dated, as are some of the sets (get a load of the old televisions they are watching at the station!). Overall it’s something the family can enjoy together without it being some of those kid-oriented comedy shows that seem to make everyone else look like idiots except for the stars. I enjoy it with them a lot.
Disc 1, Side A
Problem – The paramedics respond to a man trapped beneath the engine of his car when a beam in his garage that was holding it gave way, while the injured man’s personal doctor argues with Dr. Brackett about his care back at Rampart Hospital. When Roy is unable to contact Dr. Brackett, he aspirates the man without authorization, and he later dies, making Roy question if he should stay in the program.
They also rescue a man who was playing chicken with a bull while riding a motorcycle and was gored, and rescue a child from a house fire after he went back in to find his dog.
Johnny is actually shown driving the squad briefly during the episode.
Kids – It must be something in the water at school. The squad responds to the rescue of a boy who fell into a hole for a utility pole and finds out he’s been abused. The hospital treats a child with his hand stuck in a steering wheel while the squad responds to a child with his head stuck in the opening of a porch.
The station adopts a stray dog they name Boot. During a brush fire, he helps find an injured hiker and ends up leaving on one of the hook & ladder trucks.
Show Biz – When the squad responds to a man whose tractor has rolled over on him, they find themselves unable to communicate with Rampart Hospital. They are then assisted by a country doctor who himself ends up having to be brought in with a heart attack. They also rescue a man drowning in his own swimming pool while testing a new wet suit and rescue a stuntman trapped on the set after a stunt goes wrong.
Meanwhile, the hospital deals with a woman who dies after she herself killed a child in a car accident. The station is the setting for a photo shoot with Johnny as the hunky fireman with a couple of gorgeous models.
Virus – A woman is brought in to Rampart Hospital by the paramedics with a mysterious virus which both Johnny and Dr. Brackett end up contracting. Before Johnny is struck, he and Roy respond to a child stuck in a treehouse and a man trapped on a scaffold. Johnny is affected while attempting to rescue the man on the scaffold and must be rescued himself.
Disc 1, Side B
Peace Pipe – The squad responds to a drunk driving accident involving a child trapped in the car that was hit, a child who has his finger stuck in a gumball machine, a woman who has trouble breathing after putting on a new girdle, something flammable infiltrates the water system in a residential neighborhood causing a variety of sudden fires, and conduct a rescue on a scaffold while a sniper takes aim at them.
Meanwhile, at the station, Chet and Johnny get into it over a movie when Chet uses it to needle Johnny over his Native American heritage.
Saddled – Johnny gets the idea of investing in horses and raising them for rodeos. Dixie injures her toe and makes a poor patient. The paramedics respond to a woman who was injured by an exploding soda bottle. Roy notices a problem with a gas heater at the restaurant and cites the owner. Later on, the station responds to the same location for a gas explosion.
They also respond to a boy who has fallen from a tree. Additional bruises raise red flags for Dr. Brackett who thinks he might also be suffering from something far more serious. The station also responds to a bus crash.
Fuzz Lady – When responding to an injured mugger, Johnny meets a female deputy who he ends up falling for. At Rampart Hospital, there’s a problem with items being stolen, from morphine to medical supplies and Johnny’s jacket. Boot (the dog) comes back to the station.
The squad also responds to a house fire where an elderly man is trapped, a grandfather testing a model rocket with his grandson is injured when it explodes, and a boat thief trapped on a crane.
Sharon Gless guest stars as the female deputy.
Trainee – Johnny and Roy must contend with a trainee who thinks he knows more than the doctors back at the hospital. Meanwhile, the three of them interrupt a mugging and pursue the mugger, respond to a person who has fallen over a cliff by a lighthouse, help the victim of an apparent drug overdose, and an apparent victim of an overdose of acid who turns out to be having an insulin reaction.
Disc 2, Side A
Women – While the hospital contends with a boy poisoned by wild hemlock and a girl addicted to drugs who’s father is in denial, the squad is followed by a reporter authorized to cover their rescues. The rescues include an accident with a truck under live power lines, a man trapped in his sofabed, a man who got his arm stuck in the garbage disposal at his home, and people trapped in a building that exploded.
Trivia: Leslie Charleson, who would go on to portray Monica Quartermaine on General Hospital guest stars as the female reporter. Later on, Randolph Mantooth also appeared in General Hospital as Richard Halifax.
Dinner Date – While responding to a report of a child injured while riding his bicycle, the squad ends up treating the lady who almost hit him when she has a seizure. They also treat an alcoholic, a very obese man with a faulty pacemaker, and a child with her arm stuck in a swimming pool drain.
The hospital, meanwhile, contends with a man with multiple gunshots who was shot by his wife’s father when he learned she was married and pregnant. A woman comes in with an addiction showing signs of gangrene. A mother brings in her daughter showing signs of an overdose. A man comes in with tetanus.
Roy sets up Johnny with his wife’s cousin, who is a model. Melissa Gilbert appears in the episode.
Trivia: Laurette Spang is also in this episode. She would go on to appear in the sci-fi show Battlestar Galactica which Randolph Mantooth would guest star on.
Musical Mania – After getting ribbed by Chet for not having any musical talent, Johnny tries out a slew of different instruments, driving everyone in the station crazy.
The squad treats a man suffering from tetanus, the driver of an ice cream truck who crashed it, a fifteen-year-old girl who collapses at school and dies after overdosing on drugs, a glider crash, and a man working under his house who becomes trapped.
At the hospital, a father is reluctant to allow his son to be treated for lead poisoning due to the family’s financial situation.
Helpful – The squad rescues a man from a very precarious position after he crashes his car in a high-speed chase, a man who fell from a ladder trying to rescue his dog from the roof, and children lost in a maze of storm drains.
At the hospital, a doctor with a brilliant reputation exhibits questionable behavior and they diagnose a woman with a mysterious heart ailment.
Roy has a fight with his wife and Johnny tries to help which only makes matters worse.
Disc 2, Side B
Drivers – The squad deals with the failure of drivers to yield to the siren while responding to calls. The calls include a college football player who mysteriously passes out, a boy stuck inside a tree, a fire in a trash bin, and a major fire in an occupied hotel. Roy and Johnny also teach a CPR class to a ladies’ club and cope with the death of their paramedic instructor.
School Days – Johnny and Roy have a new trainee who seems to have an issue with confidence in his abilities. They respond to a case where a bookcase has fallen on a man, an ambulance is involved in an accident, a boy who blows up his garage while using a chemistry set, and a sleeping man who had a practical joke played on him by his friends, and a man injured at a junkyard when cars fall over on him.
Rampart Hospital treats a professional baseball player with a skull fracture
The Professor – The squad responds to a man who seems to have gone crazy for no apparent reason and with no previous history. Later on at the hospital, Drs Brackett and Early get a visit from the Secret Service regarding the patient.
Roy has an admirer after extracting the woman from a car and Johnny is envious. They respond to an apparent heart attack on a fireboat, only to find a false alarm and end up responding to a plane crash in a hard-to-reach area, as well as delivering a baby and stopping a suicide attempt.
Syndrome – Roy’s throat is bothering him and he refuses Johnny’s offers to help. The squad responds to an actor who is having chest pains and later learn he was an old flame of Dixie’s. They also rescue two kids who are trapped on top of a gas tank, a college girls lacrosse game that has become violent and respond to a fire at an abandoned hospital where Chet is injured and must share a room with Roy after his tonsillectomy. The station dog, Boot, has surgery to remove a tick from behind his ear.
Besides Dixie’s love life, the hospital contends with a hypochondriac who hates his life.
Disc 3, Side A
Honest – After responding to a gas explosion at home after a man learns his wife told him a white lie, Johnny decides to tell the truth all the time, resulting in mayhem. The hospital must contend with a boy who is having major difficulties breathing and they have trouble figuring out why. Doctor Morton’s bedside manner causes the boy’s mother to become hysterical.
The squad also responds to an injured boy who attempted to dive off of a roof into a pool, and a severe house fire where a grandfather and infant grandson are trapped inside.
Seance – The squad responds to a woman who passed out during a seance. This leads to more and more calls to the squad where she thinks her recently deceased sister is somehow doing things to her husband. They also respond to a man who was crushed under heavy cartons in a warehouse and a driver who is trapped in a submerged car.
Meanwhile, Rampart deals with a youth who overdosed on tranquilizers.
Boot – Station 51’s dog, Boot, starts behaving strangely which concerns everyone. The squad responds to a series of calls at an apartment where a woman is trying to cook a special meal for her boyfriend and his mother. They also respond to a serious traffic accident involving a tanker truck.
A son brings his unconscious father to the hospital, where it’s discovered he has internal bleeding. They also contend with a man who feels he’s had a curse put on him and an explosion in one of their lab buildings.
Vic Tayback and Jamie Farr appear in the episode.
Rip Off – Johnny and Roy respond to a cardiac patient and are later accused of stealing money from the man. They then respond to a car accident where a pregnant woman delivers her baby prematurely and her husband is comatose, and an accident at an airport where a plane failed to take off and creates a hazardous situation.
Disc 3, Side B
Audit – Johnny receives a letter from the IRS that he is being audited. They respond to a man who was reportedly hit on the head whose problem isn’t immediately clear at the hospital. A pregnant woman who is having difficulty breathing is brought in,
They are also stopped in the street to help get a child out of a locked car. The entire station arrives on a construction site where a trapped worker wants Johnny and Roy to remove his leg before the rest of the building where they are working collapses on him.