Jack Webb built an empire out of the police drama. Dragnet laid the foundation that 50 years of cop shows would stand upon. In 1972 Webb turned his attention to the relatively recent phenomenon of the paramedic. Based on a California law, the Wedsworth-Townsend Act, which created one of the first paramedic programs, Emergency brought the exploits of these young, daring rescue workers to our living rooms every week.
Roy DeSoto (Tighe) and John Gage (Mantooth) were pioneers in the paramedic field. They would be stationed out of L.A.’s real station 51. With each new episode we were treated to a standard formula that would include some kind of daring rescue, usually high above the ground. The episode would always feature a few hospital scenes were Dr. Brackett (Fuller) would deal with Rampart Hospital’s emergency room as well as guide the paramedics via radio in the field. Off the wall cases were common as well as humorous aspects of the firefighters’ lives at station 51.
Each episode of Emergency is presented in its full frame original broadcast format. Keep in mind this was a 1970’s television drama, and the less than perfect transfer will not disappoint too much. You should expect the considerable grain and overall dirty look to the prints. Colors are typically soft, common with the 1970’s broadcast quality. Black levels are neither deep nor detailed.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is pretty much on par with the video. The sound is neither dynamic nor clean. You’ll notice some high-end distortion, particularly on the blaring sirens. The musical cues are often harsh. Dialogue is usually clear, but there are times that ambient sounds such as sirens and traffic noises cause you to miss a word here and there.
The episodes are spread over two 2-sided discs. Again, shame on Universal for saving mere pennies and giving us these crappy inferior discs! No features are present.
I have fond memories of watching this show as a child. It was a favorite of my dad’s, and it was one of those family memories most of us have. Seeing them apart from that setting gave me a better appreciation of how solid the shows were for the time. Realistic television was still 20 years in the future, putting Emergency ahead of its time. The dated video flaws, I believe, actually add to the ambiance of the series. Somehow I think the show wouldn’t translate as well with a slick high-def finish. If you are willing to ignore the 1970’s style and production values, I think you’ll truly enjoy your time with “Squad 51”