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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » ER - The Complete Fourth Season
ER - The Complete Fourth Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // December 20, 2005
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Crichton | posted January 9, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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By 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 officer.

  • 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 brought in.

  • 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 know.

  • 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 his cousin.

  • 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 aren't appreciated.

  • 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 Anthony Edwards.

  • 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 suicidal.

Video: 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.

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