One of the most highly popular, well-reviewed and influential ensemble dramas in the last couple of decades, "E.R." only recently ended its lengthy 15-season run (I was shocked to see that the series was ending, but while it seemed as if it would go on forever, ratings had started a mild decline in recent years.) The show was created by author Michael Crichton, who graduated from Harvard Medical School and spent time at Massachusetts General Hospital. Apparently, the concept of the show met with skepticism from NBC, but came around after Crichton worked with Spielberg (another of the show's producers) on "Jurassic Park".
The show - which did do well against competition from other new dramatic fare over the years (especially "Grey's Anatomy") and several cast changes - deals with doctors in an ER in Chicago. During each hour-long episode, the multi-layered stories deal with both the relationships - personal and professional - of the doctors, as well as the stories of the incoming patients. The show does a superior job balancing the pain, tragedy, emotion and drama with hope and the occasional hint or two of humor.
Season Fourteen sets the stage for the final season. Beginning after the peace rally from season thirteen, the fourteenth seasons brings changes to the hospital when Neela (Parminder Nagra) arrives injured at the ER and Dr. Moretti (Stanley Tucci) sets in motion unwelcome changes for the group. The alterations Morretti makes are felt throughout the majority of the season, but it's the characters struggle and determination to survive each day at County General that continued to make "E.R." as engrossing as it was. Still, despite the memorable characters, the series does start to wind down with what feels like a somewhat tired final lap towards the finish line.
Still, season fourteen has a lot of highlights both as far as episodes, and character depth. Nurse Abby (Maura Tierney) has her share of setbacks here, especially since Luka (Goran Visnjic) has been in Croatia, without any signs of returning home quickly. By the seventh episode, "Blackout" she starts drinking and ends up in the arms of someone unexpected. Meanwhile, Dr. Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) continues to work on advancing his career, and even considers changing hospitals since he feels underappreciated at County General. Dr. Gates (John Stamos) and Nurse Sam's (Linda Cardellini) relationship takes a new turn in "Owner of a Broken Heart." Each character gets focus here in the 19 episode season, and even some new characters arrive including Harold Zelinsky (Steven Christopher Parker) and Dr. Simon Brenner (David Lyons).
While all of the characters are interesting and have considerable ups and downs, the show does feel a bit heavy handed at times. The focus in the ER is intense enough that it would have been nice to have a few more lighthearted breaks for the characters. However, "E.R." does do a nice job of presenting strong-willed, flawed, compassionate, human characters that have to deal with the affects the ER has on each of them. Though not as compelling as the original seasons, "E.R." managed to turn out great performances and memorable moments well into its final year. Fans of the series should appreciate having all nineteen episodes on DVD, as well as the bonus features included.
• Season 14
291 27/Sep/07 The War Comes Home
292 04/Oct/07 In A Different Light
293 11/Oct/07 Officer Down
294 18/Oct/07 Gravity
295 25/Oct/07 Under The Influence
296 01/Nov/07 The Test
297 08/Nov/07 Blackout
298 15/Nov/07 Coming Home
299 29/Nov/07 Skye's The Limit
300 06/Dec/07 300 Patients
301 03/Jan/08 Status Quo
302 10/Jan/08 Believe the Unseen
303 17/Jan/08 Atonement
304 10/Apr/08 Owner of a Broken Heart
305 17/Apr/08 ...As the Day She Was Born
306 24/Apr/08 Truth Will Out
307 01/May/08 Under Pressure
308 08/May/08 Tandem Repeats
309 15/May/08 The Chicago Way
VIDEO:One of the first shows that was shot/broadcast in widescreen, "ER" is presented here in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is, once again, largely excellent. Sharpness and detail are terrific, and the picture appears pretty consistently crisp and clear, with only a couple of minor instances of softness here-and-there.
A little bit of shimmering was spotted, but otherwise, the picture appeared crisp and clear, with no specks, marks or other faults. No pixelation was seen, either. Colors looked accurately presented, with no smearing or other flaws. Black level appeared solid, while flesh tones looked accurate.
SOUND: The 2.0 soundtracks provide fine audio quality, with no hiss, distortion or other faults. Dialogue remained crisp and clear throughout, as did music and sound effects.
EXTRAS: BR> "Outpatient Outtakes: Unaired Scenes" - each disc includes several episodes that feature an option to watch the outpatient outtakes/unaired scenes. Fans may enjoy the extra footage from the series.
"ER at 300: Highlights from the ER 300th Episode Tribute at the Paley Center for Media Featuring Cast and Crew" In the thirty minutes that the feature runs, the cast and crew gather together in front of an audience to discuss "E.R." This should be really great for fans because the cast and crew talk about where "E.R." was originated, their characters, their roles before "E.R." and more. It's fun to watch the cast and crew interact, as there are several jokes and a good deal of information presented. Worth a look.
"Gag Reel" - for a show that focuses mostly on drama, the gag reel is a refreshing addition with some humorous moments throughout the near fifteen minute run.
Final Thoughts: By fourteen years, "E.R." continues to do a superior job balancing the pain, tragedy, emotion and drama with hope and the occasional hint or two of humor. This season is uneven at times, but still delivers overall, with solid performances from the core cast. Recommended.