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 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, tragegy, emotion and drama with hope and the occasional hint or two of humor.
Season number 13 of the series sees the series starting to wind down, but the season is not without a few highlights. This round of episodes continues to see some cast changes (and it wouldn't be a season of "ER" without cameos), as well as an enjoyable range of plots and character development.
The season starts with the tragic "Bloodline", which follows the events of the finale of the previous season, where the hospital was rocked by a shooting. The episode follows the doctors as they try to attend to those injured, including Abby, who sustained an injury and goes into labor months in an advance as a result. Abby's difficulties with the early birth and her attempts to handle motherhood (such as signing up for classes) are a significant storyline throughout the season.
Other threads that run throughout the season include Luka (Goran Visnjic) facing serious trouble when a carpenter named Curtis Ames (Forest Whitaker) sues him for malpractice. Whitaker offers a terrific performance, which earned the actor an Emmy nomination. John Stamos also impresses as intern Tony Gates, whose role is increased this season. Mekhi Phifer, Linda Cardellini and Parminder Nagra also deliver solid supporting efforts, as well.
The series also sees the departure of Dr. Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) and the enjoyable arrival later on of chief Kevin Moretti (Stanley Tucci, in an intense, engaging performance.)
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 the series is definitely starting to wind down at this point, "ER" still delivers a handful of superb episodes and fine performances from the ensemble cast. Recommended for fans.