the fourth season, ER had settled into its spot as the nightcap for NBC's "Must
See TV" lineup. Actually, if one were to equate it with skipping stones on the
water, one's night would start with Friends at 8, skip "Union Square" at 8:30,
watch "Seinfield" at 9 and find a dripping faucet to entertain themselves during
"Veronica's Closet", which was on immediately before ER. For me, once Cheers and the Cosby Show
vacated the airwaves, my night with NBC didn't start until 10p.
ER continued its fourth season where the
third one ended: Mark Green coping with being the victim of a violent crime,
Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway resuming their on-again/off-again relationship
(this time keeping it a secret),
Jeanie Boulet dealing with her HIV status, Benton becoming a father and John T.
Carter in the middle of everything. Unfortunately, the producers decided to take
Edwards & Clooney's suggestion and film the season premiere "live". I'm sure it
sounded good on paper, and Tommy Schlamme did an excellent job directing it, but
man was it boring. In fact, the only bright spot during the whole fourty-five
minutes (besides Clooney's incessant mugging), was the introduction of Elizabeth
Corday. Four episodes later, another of ER's most memorable characters - Dr.
Robert "Rocket" Romano - makes his debut (with BOTH arms, thank you very much).
There's a lot to take in this season. And all of it is pretty compelling. From Weaver's attempts at streamlining the hospital's budget (with
Kurgan from Highlander!) to Doug dealing with his father's legacy while
jeopardizing his thanks to his renegade method of healthcare. We also see Jeanie dealing with Anspaugh's cancer-stricken son and
Mark dealing with a clingy/needy receptionist (Mariska Hargitay!) while tending
to his sick mother and hashing out the strained relationship with his father.
Here's the episode listing:
- Ambush - A documentary crew shoots a day in
the life of County General during ER's LIVE season four premiere. In
addition to Dr. Morganstern (William H. Macy) suffering a heart attack, this
episode marks the debut of Elizabeth Corday. While I can admire what the
cast and crew went through during the shooting of this episode, it turned
out to be terribly boring. Since they shot the episode twice (once for each
coast), the completest in me is surprised that WB opted not to include both
versions on the set, regardless of how minute the differences might be.
- Something New - Mark hires new desk clerk
Cynthia Hooper (Mariska Hargitay) after dealing with a wrongful death suit
brought on by the family of the person he suspects is responsible for his
attack from last season. Carter deals with a med student (Chad Lowe) whose
bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired while Elizabeth deals with the
differences between US & UK heath care procedures. Doug gets a present.
- Friendly Fire - Benton fights to prevent his
son from getting circumcised as Weaver harasses Doug about his fellowship
while letting her new "Chief Of Emergency Medicine" power corrupt. A man on
his way to a gun show is treated in the ER, while Jerry fools around with
one of his "unloaded" rocket launchers. Carol gets jealous after catching
Elizabeth flirt with Doug.
- When the Bough Breaks - Kerry continues to
gently nudge Doug into earning his financial keep in the ER, while
Carol deals with a drug addict's claim that she dropped her baby on the
floor during delivery. In addition to her husband getting fired after he's
forced to disclose his HIV status, Jeanie has to deal with the fallout when
she's forced to treat a patient with a punctured lung thanks to his broken
ribs. Carol confronts Mark.
- Good Touch, Bad Touch - Dr. Robert "Rocket" Romano makes
his debut while Peter is forced to deal with a stack of patient files after
he fails to answer Anspaugh's question. While Anna (Maria Bello) butts heads
with Ross over his offer to tell a patient he has testicular cancer, Carol
contemplates opening a clinic and Al and Jeanie get into a bar fight.
- Ground Zero - In an effort to balance the
budget, Kerry gets close to Synergix representative Ellis West (Clancy
Brown) before she decides to fire Jeanie. Anna discovers Carter's been
"lying" to her regarding his finances before tagging along with Carol, who
hits his grandmother up for financing for the clinic. Mark opens up to
Cynthia and they get closer. Doug gets a devastating phone call.
- Fathers And Sons - After hitching a ride with
Doug as he goes to California to identify his father's body and tie up any
loose ends, Mark decides to head over to San Diego and visit his parents.
- Freak Show - Carol and Mark return to Chicago
without Doug and quickly butt heads over Cynthia's mistake. After meeting
new ER nurse Yosh (Gedde Watanabe), Jeanie makes waves regarding her
termination. Benton convinces a grieving father (Harold Perrineau from "Lost"
& "OZ") to
authorize an autopsy on his son, who has reversed internal organs. Mark
treats Herb Spivak (Dan Hedaya), who becomes his new attorney and an intern
from Carter's immediate past returns and finds himself in jeopardy.
- Obstruction Of Justice - Doug finally returns
from California and quickly ingores Kerry's wishes regarding a sickle cell
patient. Mark has to pay his lawyer for a job well done while dealing with
Cynthia's makeover of his daughter. Anspaugh rehires Jeanie and Carter gets
himself arrested after refusing to cooperate with an abrasive police
- Do You See What I See? - Kerry sleeps with a
man [!] and helps Jeanie out after she forgets her meds. Cynthia comes clean
with Mark, who treats an elderly rape victim with the word "whore" written
on her chest. Carter discovers that his cousin is a heroin addict while word
spreads among the homeless after that Peter's a "miracle worker" after he
"heals" a blind man. And towards the end of the episode, Ross and Hathaway
make an announcement that surprise no one.
- Think Warm Thoughts - Doug & Carol conflict
where marriage is concerned; he wants it now, she doesn't. Dr. Swift
(Michael Ironside) returns to the ER, while Romano forces Carter and Benton
to lecture med students. Anspaugh notices that his son responds well to
Jeanie as Elizabeth goes against Romano's wishes in hopes of getting a
specialist to take care of a patient of hers. Another elderly rape victim is
- Sharp Relief - Carol rides along with dreamy
paramedic Dean Powell (CSI's George Eads) while Doug asks Mark to be his
best man. Kerry is finally realizing that Ellis doesn't care about patients
and Anna tells Carter what to expect while dealing with a drug addict. Carol
and Dean come across another elderly rape victim who later dies at the ER.
Elizabeth teaches Peter how to shoot darts during their date. After winding
down later that night, Carol lets Powell kiss her on the roof and then
confesses to Doug, who doesn't take it well.
- Carter's Choice - Anspaugh tells Kerry that,
based on her suggestion, the board will more than likely agree to a contract
with Synergix. Cynthia throws out a hint to an oblivious Mark, while another
rape victim is brought to the ER. Later, the rapist is brought in. He's been
shot several times and needs a blood transfusion. After working on a
security guard who tried to stop the raping, the blood bank is low, so Carter
has a decision to make regarding transfusion Meanwhile, Carol deals with a mentally
retarded couple about to become parents.
- Family Practice - Mark flies to San Diego to
revisit his parents and learn some things about his family that he didn't
- Exodus - What begins as an ordinary day, with
Elizabeth on a paramedic ride along, turns out to be highly exciting, action
packed episode thanks to a warehouse fire and Benzene contamination. Blink
and you'll miss Eva Mendes.
- My Brother's Keeper - Doug is preparing his
research, while Mark is scared straight regarding his nicotine addiction and
later discovers what happened to Cynthia. Anna gives Carter a hand treating
- A Bloody Mess - Kerry hides her disappointment
once Dr. Morganstern returns. However, he has a hard time treating a
patient. Elizabeth pisses Romano off while conducting her study, before
getting into an altercation with Peter. Doug confides his intentions for his
future and then delivers some bad news. Carol's efforts to promote safe sex
- Gut Reaction - Since Mark and Jerry are in
charge of the ER banquet this year, what can go wrong, does. Scott Anspaugh
learns his options and makes a decision. Carter cuts ties before performing
a bone marrow procedure on a colleague. Benton and Morgenstern's surgery
isn't as smooth as it should be. Though the banquet seems quite ghetto,
everyone makes the best of it.
- Shades Of Gray - An abortion clinic is bombed,
while Peter's on the losing end of an M & M regarding the botched surgery.
Doug deals with a young couple with a child on the way. Elizabeth treats a
patient for the final time. Jeanie sings Green Day. When all is said and
done, Peter and Elizabeth find a way to unwind.
- Of Past Regret And Future Fear - Carter
disagrees with his grandmother regarding his cousin's rehabilitation and
later works with Anna to decipher a patient with cerebral palsy. Carol does her best
to take care of a patient with some fatal chemical burns. Kerry accidentally
discovers something shocking about an elderly couple and Romano makes a
move. This episode was directed by
- Suffer the Little Children - Carter doesn't
trust Anna's ex and tells him so. Peter and Elizabeth deal with racial
issues, before she has to deal with Romano's issues. A televangelist's wife
has an infection after a facelift. Doug goes to some
career-ending extremes to save a baby addicted to methadone.
- A Hole In the Heart - Doug and Mark's
relationship deteriorates thanks to the rapid detoxing of Baby Josh. Benton
learns his son might have a hearing problem. Elvis is in the building - both
young and old. Kerry announces she wants to be the permanent Chief Of ER
Medicine, then later quits. Jeanie and Carol try to treat a man who might be
ER: the Complete Fourth Season is presented on six
single-sided DVDs with an anamorphic aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There were no
noticeable flaws and the picture is what you would expect from a show on
broadcast TV (before the HD era). The season premiere "Ambush" is shot in a full
frame ratio and is the only episode filmed on video.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix was adequate. I found that my center
speaker was predominately used during the quiet moments, but when the action was
kicked into gear, such as during "Exodus" and the final two episodes of the
season, the right and left fronts got quite a workout. I wonder how
many seasons it'll take before the 5.1 starts. I also thought it was strange
that the beginning and end credits were louder than the show for some reason.
Supplements: Each disc contains deleted scenes or "Outpatient Outtakes" for
each episode, while disc 6
also contains some documentaries, both of which focus on the live season
premiere. The first, "East And West "Live" Post Shows" [11m
58s], has an NBC "reporter" (an annoying one, at that) talking with the cast and
crew (and Steven Spielberg!) immediately after both shows. "Anatomy Of Episode
Ambush" is a 20m 9s
doc interviewing cast and crew (both new and archived footage) on how the live
episode came together. "CUTups" is 10m 22s of outtakes; the majority
of themfeaturing (surprise, surprise) Clooney.
Conclusion: Watching this episodes made me long for the day where it
didn't seem like the writers were coming up with ideas strictly to cater to
NBC's overdramatic promo department. There was plenty of (believable) character
development and interesting storylines, involving patients too, lasted more than
one episode. Alright. Let me stop comparing the fourth season to later seasons.
Did I enjoy my 22 hour stay at County General? Heck yeah. I particularly enjoyed
"Exodus" and the final two episodes thanks to Clooney's storyline. All
three of these episodes were tightly plotted and the action in each one had my
adrenaline flowing. For fans of ER, this Recommended set is a no-brainer.
If you're not a fan of the show, this season will make you one.