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) last 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.
Season number 12 of the series continues to push forward with a reasonable amount of steam after a somewhat uneven 11th season. This round of episodes offers a new lead (as well as some solid cameo performances), as well as an enjoyable range of plots and character development.
The season opens with "Canon City", a tight, moving episode that has Sam and Kovac searching for her son, who ran away after an argument. Unfortunately, her son's sickness means that he only has limited time before he must require medicine - medicine that he doesn't have on him. The episode gives actress Linda Cardellini a chance to shine, and she certainly provides a powerful, convincing performance as she desperately tries to seek out her lost child. "Blame It On the Rain", the fourth episode in the season, is also a well-written journey into the crises and sadness encountered during a rainstorm in the city, while a patient previously in a coma during a snowstorm accident years earlier awakens suddenly.
"Wake Up" provides the introduction to new doctor Victor Clemente (played by John Leguizamo), who surprises his fellow co-workers by posing as a patient and getting a surprising reaction when they incorrectly handle his supposed crisis. Leguizamo's high-energy performance and snappy, sharp delivery add a dynamic new element to the series in this season, and the actor best known for comedic performances handles the dramatic moments quite well.
Noah Wyle and his long-running character John Carter also makes a special appearance in a couple of episodes ("Darfur", "There Are No Angels Here"), while Sherry Stringfield's Dr. Lewis does depart in the first episode of the season. The season's larger-budgeted "Two Ships" creates a horrifying situation, as two planes collide in mid-air over the city, causing a path of destruction and tragedy. Meanwhile, Kovac and Abby find they are expecting ("If Not Now", "Quintessence of Dust") and Visnjic and Tierny continue to exhibit a very nice chemistry with one another this season.
Overall, this is a very nice rebound after the 11th season, with stellar performances and some very moving episodes.
246 12-01 22/Sep/05 Caņon City
247 12-02 29/Sep/05 Nobody's Baby
248 12-03 06/Oct/05 Man with No Name
249 12-04 13/Oct/05 Blame it on the Rain
250 12-05 20/Oct/05 Wake Up
251 12-06 03/Nov/05 Dream House
252 12-07 10/Nov/05 The Human Shield
253 12-08 17/Nov/05 Two Ships
254 12-09 01/Dec/05 I Do
255 12-10 08/Dec/05 All About Christmas Eve
256 12-11 05/Jan/06 If Not Now
257 12-12 12/Jan/06 Split Decisions
258 12-13 02/Feb/06 Body and Soul
259 12-14 09/Feb/06 Quintessence of Dust
260 12-15 02/Mar/06 Darfur
261 12-16 16/Mar/06 Out on a Limb
262 12-17 23/Mar/06 Lost in America
263 12-18 30/Mar/06 Strange Bedfellows
264 12-19 27/Apr/06 No Place to Hide
265 12-20 04/May/06 There Are No Angels Here
266 12-21 11/May/06 The Gallant Hero & the Tragic Victor
267 12-22 18/May/06 Twenty-One Guns
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: Overall, this is a very nice rebound after the 11th season, with stellar performances and some very moving episodes. The DVD offers solid audio/video quality, but minimal extras. Recommended.