ER was the longest-running medical drama to run on primetime television and it ran for an impressive fifteen seasons. It received an incredible 124 Emmy nominations, winning 24 times and launched the careers of several big Hollywood stars including George Clooney and Julianna Margulies. ER was one of the first television shows to really take American television programming up a notch and the storylines, casting, acting, sets and medical storylines were all fantastic. For fifteen years, millions of viewers tuned in for every episode and faithfully followed the story of the doctors and nurses in the emergency room in the fictional County General Hospital in Chicago.
It has been a really long wait but finally, three years after the season aired on NBC, Warner Brothers have released the region 1 DVD of the complete thirteenth season of medical drama ER. This is perhaps one of the most explosive and exciting seasons and the one in which everything changes.
The previous season of ER had ended with Nurse Sam Taggart’s ex-husband Steve being brought into the ER following a prison fight. With the help of an EMT trainee, Steve and the other prisoner stage a violent escape drugging Luka, shooting Jerry and kidnapping Sam (Linda Cardellini) and Alex. The season closed with the pregnant Abby (Maura Tierney) collapsing outside the trauma room door as a paralysed Luka (Goran Visnjic) watched, unable to help.
The first episodes of thirteenth season of ER were amongst the most exciting episodes of television that have aired in recent years. In three short episodes, everything changed and we saw new faces arrive at the hospital and one staff member was demoted. The season opened as staff at the hospital fought to save Jerry’s life and to save Abby and the baby while Sam and Alex dramatically escaped from the violent and psychotic Steve. Parminder Nagra’s grieving character Dr. Neela Rasgotra struggled to recover emotionally from the death of Gallant and former-paramedic Tony Gates (played by John Stamos) arrived as an intern at the hospital.
The season barely slowed down from there and included the usual collection of intriguing and at times heart-breaking medical cases. It was the relationships between the characters and the character development that set this season apart though. There was a love triangle as Neela found herself the object of affection of both Dr. Ray Barnett (Shane West) and Tony and Neela and Ray’s relationship hurtled towards an ultimately tragic and shocking conclusion. Tony became a pivotal character in the season and his personal story, secrets and challenges kept the audience tied to the television screen for episode after episode. One of the longest standing characters on the show, Dr. Kerry Weaver (played by Laura Innes), left mid-season and as sad as I was to see her go, it also gave way for a new guard in the emergency room at County General Hospital.
One of the biggest stories of the season was that between Luka and Abby. The talented Forest Whitaker guest-starred as Curtis Ames, a disgruntled former patient of Luka’s that came to take out his revenge on Abby and the baby. Forest Whitaker was nominated for an Emmy for this role in the category Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. The storyline was explosive and for most of season you were left guessing as to whether their relationship would survive the pressures of Luka’s new position at the hospital, the effect of the trauma and the arrival of their new baby.
The last three episodes of the season were at times incredibly tragic and sad and the season ended with the promise of even more action and wider changes than ever before.
The cast and acting were always incredible in ER and this season was no different. I believe the strongest performances came from Parminder Nagra in her role as Dr. Neela Rasgotra and Shane West in his role as Dr. Ray Barnett. Special mention must go to Chloe Greenfield who plays Sarah, the daughter of Dr. Tony Gates. Chloe would have been a pre-teen when the season was filmed and she showed herself to be a talented young actress as her character loses her mother and fights to stay with Tony.
The region 1 DVD release of the complete thirteenth season of ER consists of six discs and has an information booklet complete with episode summaries. Extra features include outpatient outtakes on several episodes which provide a bit of comic relief when some of the storylines get quite hectic. There are unaired scenes too which are quite interesting but in most cases you can see why they were left out. The set has English and French subtitles on the main episodes but not on the extra features.
As frustrating as it is to wait so long for the ER seasons to be brought to DVD, it is wonderful to watch them all again and to recall what made this television series great in the first place. This award-winning and powerful drama is greatly missed and I would certainly recommend this box set. I give it five out of five stars and wait patiently for the region 1 releases of the last two seasons.
Photos courtesy of © Warner Brothers Entertainment
Article first published as DVD Review: ER – The Complete Thirteenth Season on Blogcritics.