A highly popular, well-reviewed and influential ensemble drama, "E.R." still stands as one of (few) remaining quality television programs on-air as it begins its 15th and final (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) year. 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 continues to pull strong ratings despite competition from other new dramatic fare (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, tragegy, emotion and drama with hope and the occasional hint or two of humor.
The season opens with "One for the Road", which continues after last-season's cliffhanger. The remainder of the season is not one of the show's strongest efforts, but at least does some things right. John Carter (Noah Wyle) decides to leave the ER (the finale, "The Show Must Go On", is the character's going-away party), and while the character would return for a couple of guest appearances, this was the last season that Wyle was a regular on the series and he does get a pretty nice send-off here.
Elsewhere, Maura Tierney continues to be one of the show's strongest assets, as she finds that attempting to become an M.D. comes with added responsibilities and some difficulty adjusting to the way she's seen by others in the E.R. Tierney's performance also remains impressive, as the actress once again offers a natural, genuinely moving performance that stands as one of the show's best. Also excellent in supporting performances are Nagra, Innes, Wyle and Phifer, among others. Additionally, Ray Liotta offers an award-winning performance as a gravely ill alcoholic in one episode this season.
This may not have been the show's strongest effort, but there are some highlights, such as "Damaged", "Time of Death", "Middleman", "Just as I Am", "Refusal of Care" and "The Show Must Go On". The season is spread across 6 discs in the set.
224. 11- 1 23 Sep 04 One for the Road
-After the car crash, Pratt and Chen are alive but injured. Neela returns to Chicago, but Kem devastates Carter when she lives the city.
225. 11- 2 7 Oct 04 Damaged
- Carter slips towards a dangerous remedy for a broken heart. Abby - now an MD - contends with nurses who resent her.
226. 11- 3 14 Oct 04 Try Carter
- The team faces a difficult 4th of July weekend.
227. 11- 4 21 Oct 04 Fear
- Corday's role in an HIV-organ transplant takes her career off the tenure track. The team treats children believed to be abused by their father.
228. 11- 5 4 Nov 04 An Intern's Guide to the Galaxy
- Ray's haste leads to a terrible error, while Pratt turns the day into a competition between Abby, Neela and Ray.
229. 11- 6 11 Nov 04 Time of Death
- Told almost entirely in real time, a gravely ill alcoholic learns that he doesn't have much time left. Actor Ray Liotta earned an Emmy for his work in this episode.
230. 11- 7 18 Nov 04 White Guy, Dark Hair
- A woman who just gave birth denies the child is hers.
231. 11- 8 2 Dec 04 A Shot in the Dark
- The doctors override a parent's demands in order to save the life of a children. A 15-year-old is judged mature enough to sign off on surgery for his father.
232. 11- 9 9 Dec 04 Twas the Night
- It's the night before Christmas, and while the staff tries to leave, one crisis after another prevents their departure.
233. 11-10 13 Jan 05 Skin
- In the back of a car, Abby tends to an injured gang member using supplies from a local drugstore. Neela gets a lesson in empathy.
234. 11-11 20 Jan 05 Only Connect
- An ambulance-chasing lawyer sets up outside the hospital door to take on patients displeased with their stay at County General.
235. 11-12 27 Jan 05 The Providers
- Trouble happens with Lewis unknowingly pairs up doctors with love-struck residents. Meanwhile, drug side effects may have damaged the kidney a loving father donated to his daughter.
236. 11-13 3 Feb 05 Middleman
- The focus is on the hierarchy of ER decision-making and funding.
237. 11-14 10 Feb 05 Just As I Am
- Weaver has a rocky reunion with her birth mother, while Carter gets rough with a couple trying to con the ER out of drugs.
238. 11-15 17 Feb 05 Alone in a Crowd
- A mother of three has a stroke, and the episode shows the ER experience from her point of view.
239. 11-16 24 Feb 05 Here and There
- Dr. Gallant, stationed in Iraq, enlists Neela's aid to help a little girl who's been wounded in Iraq.
240. 11-17 24 Mar 05 Back in the World
- Gallant and Neela spend a precious few hours together, while a lonely guy in a superhero outfit has a thing for Neela.
241. 11-18 21 Apr 05 Refusal of Care
- An immigrant mother who's desperate to save her son from deportation goes on a hunger strike and there's nothing the ER can do.
242. 11-19 28 Apr 05 Ruby Redux
- A man who despises Carter because the way the then-student treated his wife 10 years earlier comes to the ER with a heart problem.
243. 11-20 5 May 05 You Are Here
- Ray puts his rock gig aside to help a "frequent flyer" with a painful secret.
244. 11-21 12 May 05 Carter Est Amoureux
- While Sam and Kovac grow further apart, Carter flies to Paris for one last chance at happiness with Kem. Abby, Neela and Ray share a miserable day of mistake after mistake.
245. 11-22 19 May 05 The Show Must Go On
- It's Carter's going away party, but an unexpected situation leads Ray, Abby and Neela to instead be in an understaffed ER.
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: The seasons go on, but the amount of supplements gets smaller: all we get here are deleted scenes - no gag reel, as has been offered with prior seasons.
Final Thoughts: While not one of "E.R."'s finest seasons, the show's ensemble cast continues to deliver excellent performances and there are certainly some highlight episodes. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, but minimal supplements. Recommended for fans.