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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Created By:
Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg
Cast:
George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies, Sherry Stringfield, Noah Wyle, Eric LaSalle
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
I first wrote E.R. back in 1974 as a record of my experiences as a medical student in a hospital emergency room. But it was not until the fall of 1994, 20 years later, that these stories appeared as a new television series. That must surely be the longest creative gestation in modern television, but it was worth it. Audiences found the show to be fast paced, fresh and real, and it drew a loyal following from its very first episode. But if the past was remarkable, the future was even more so: none of us involved in those early days of E.R. could have anticipated its long and remarkable run as one of the best and most popular television shows in the history of the medium. From its early days to the exciting present, it's been one long thrill for me, and I think for audiences as well. Enjoy! (Michael Crichton, June 2003)

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles:
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 1179 min.
Price: $59.98
Release Date: 8/26/2003

Bonus:
• Prescription of Success: The Birth of ER
• First-Year Rotation: Caring for ER
• On the Cutting Edge: Medical Realism on ER
• Post Operative Procedures: Post Production in the ER
• Audio Commentary on 3 Episodes by Series Producers and Crew
• First-Year Intern Handbook
• Additional Scenes
• Outtakes


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EQUIPMENT
TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.

RELATED REVIEWS


ER: The Complete First Season (1994)

Reviewed by David Williams (September 17, 2003)

Created by the dream team of author Michael Crichton and producer Steven Spielberg, ER debuted on NBC way back in 1994 to critical acclaim and large audiences. For a decade, the show has been at or near the top of the ratings and amazingly, has been able to continually reinvent itself - while staying true to its loyal fan base - in order to pull strong numbers season after season after season. The show features strong writing, an excellent ensemble cast, above-average production values, and a well-balanced level of intensity that easily holds your interest for the entire hour it’s on.

If you’re not familiar with the way ER works, each episode deals with the daily lives (personal and professional) of the doctors, nurses, and medical staff in Chicago’s County General Hospital Emergency Room. The multiple story arcs are wrapped around the hustle and bustle of patients continually coming in and out of the ER and we get a front row seat to the lives, loves, and losses, as well as the pain, tragedy and emotion of a day in the life of one of County General’s best and brightest.

The first season ensemble was quite a memorable one – there’s Doctor Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), a very confident and capable doctor who delicately balances his duties in the ER with those at home; Doctor Doug Ross (George Clooney), the rebellious, yet compassionate pediatrics doctor who doesn’t always do what is right, but always does what is right for his patients; Doctor Peter Benton (Eric LaSalle), a very gifted, highly confident, and self-assured surgeon whose emotionally distant attitude rubs many folks the wrong way; and Carol Hathaway (Julianna Marguiles), the very knowledgeable and practical head nurse of the ER who composedly and skillfully performs right alongside all of the doctors and surgeons that surround her. Other notable cast members from the inaugural season include medical student John Cater (Noah Wyle), a wet-behind-the-ears intern who plays an integral part in many of the first season episodes ,as well as Doctor Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield); sacrificing almost everything to become a doctor, she must balance a chaotic family life in order to remain one.

Warner, rapidly releasing high-quality boxed sets of their televised series, has done another excellent job with their release of ER: The Complete First Season. All twenty-five of the first season episodes are spread out over three double-sided/dual-layered DVDs and one single-sided/single-layered disc with a fold out case enclosed in a cardboard slipcover.

As I usually do on reviews of TV shows, I’ll hit it episode by episode, disc by disc.

- DISC ONE -

Pilot (Original Air Date: September 19, 1994)
We meet the staff of a Chicago-based emergency room – County General - on a particularly busy day after a building collapse brings in a ton of patients. There’s Doctor Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), who’s considering leaving the hustle and bustle of the ER to join a private practice; Doctor Doug Ross (George Clooney), who comes into work still a little drunk and very hung over; and Doctor Peter Benton (Eric La Salle), preparing to perform a major operation normally reserved for senior surgeons on the same day he’s expecting his intern, John Carter (Noah Wyle), to show up for work. Everyone in the ER is shocked when head nurse, Carol Hathaway (Julianna Marguiles), is brought in after a failed suicide attempt.

Day One (Original Air Date: September 22, 1994)
Doctor Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) attempts to get help for a mentally disturbed man admitted to the psychiatric ward while Doctor Ross fights to save a girl hit by a drunk driver. Carter tends to a tour group and a large wedding party that have all gotten food poisoning and Doctor Greene must counsel an elderly man that is having difficulty dealing with the death of his beloved wife.

Going Home (Original Air Date: September 29, 1994)
Carol Hathaway returns to work after her suicide attempt and corresponding absence and it leaves Doug Ross, feeling somewhat responsible for her problems. Rosemary Clooney makes an Emmy-nominated appearance as an Alzheimer’s patient, “Madame X”, being cared for by Carter. Doctor Greene tends to a domestic violence victim.

Hit and Run (Original Air Date: October 6, 1994)
Carter wonders if he really wants to continue on in medicine as he is given the task of notifying the parents of a dead teenager from a hit-and-run accident. Doctors Lewis and Benton clash over a misdiagnosed case, while Doug and Carol attempt to mend their relationship.

Into That Good Night (Original Air Date: October 13, 1994)
Doctor Greene tries to find a heart transplant for a critically ill patient, as his wife prepares to move to Milwaukee. Doctor Ross helps out with an asthmatic teenager’s medical bills when he learns that her family can’t afford the costs of her medication, while Doctor Lewis treats a teenager with alcohol poisoning. Carter thinks he may have contracted an STD from his girlfriend, Liz (Liz Vassey).

Chicago Heat (Original Air Date: October 20, 1994)
The AC goes out during one of the hottest days in October and it causes some of the other ERs in the area to close and creates a much larger workload than normal at County General. Ross treats a very young overdose patient who OD’d on her sister’s cocaine, while Carol finds out that he (Ross) recently picked up a comely pharmaceutical rep for a little fun. Doctor Lewis’ sister, Chloe (Kathleen Wilhoite), drops by and as always, causes all kinds of problems. A pizza delivery man crashes his car through the front doors of the ER.

Another Perfect Game (Original Air Date: November 3, 1994)
Hathaway second guesses moving in with Dr. Tagliari (Rick Rossovich) after she and Ross hook up for a kiss. Benton interviews for the prestigious Starzl Fellowship and also does an incredible job of saving a man’s life with a very serious throat wound. Doctor Lewis has quite an eventful birthday.

- DISC TWO -

9 ½ Hours (Original Air Date: November 10, 1994)
Hathaway treats a rape victim on the verge of killing herself and Doctor Greene calls in sick in order to spend some time with his wife and Doctor Ross must cover for him on a very hectic day. Doctor Benton and Carter’s relationship starts showing signs of strain, as Carter becomes more and more tired of Benton’s attitude. Benton’s mother shows up in the ER with an ankle problem.

ER Confidential (Original Air Date: November 17, 1994)
Doctor Cvetic (John Terry) attempts to deal with a growing sense of hatred toward his patients and Carol Hathaway deals with an ethical dilemma when a patient confides the details of an accident to her. Carter and Benton treat a suicidal transvestite and Doug deals with more relationship problems.

Blizzard (Original Air Date: December 8, 1994)
A massive winter storm hits the Chicago area and brings the ER to a literal standstill. However, as the staff is cutting up and enjoying their downtime, a call comes in that there has been a massive car pile-up and there are dozens of casualties. The ER goes from empty to over capacity very quickly. Also, a new doctor comes to the ER - Angela Hicks (CCH Pounder).

The Gift (Original Air Date: December 15, 1994)
Doctor Benton makes a huge mistake by advertising a dying man’s organs before getting consent from his family – namely, the man’s estranged wife – and he unnecessarily gets up the hopes of patients and families in need. Doctor Hicks confronts Benton about the error. Meanwhile, Chloe announces that she’s pregnant.

Happy New Year (Original Air Date: January 5, 1995)
Carter makes it through his first surgery and complains to Doctor Benton about some of the work he’s required to do as a resident. Doctor Lewis gets into it with a cardiologist, Doctor Kayson (Sam Anderson), after a heart patient that was released is soon readmitted in serious condition. Chloe tells everyone she’s moving to Texas with her boyfriend.

Luck Of The Draw (Original Air Date: January 12, 1995)
Carter trains one of Benton’s new students, Deb Chen (Ming-Na Wen), while Hathaway has her hands full with a patient who’s obsessed with colors. Kayson brings charges against Doctor Lewis over the death of a patient and Morgenstern (William H. Macy) reprimands her for not being assertive enough. Doctor Green works on a patient who has swallowed packets of cocaine.

Long Day’s Journey (Original Air Date: January 19, 1995)
Doctor Ross’ caseload is quite hectic, as he’s dealing with an abuse case, a suicide, a teen prostitute with AIDS, and a child with cancer. Carter is shown up by new resident Deb and Doctor Lewis and Doctor Kayson have an unusual run in, as Lewis tends to Kayson as a patient.

February 5, ’95 (Original Air Date: February 2, 1995)
Morgenstern offers Doctor Greene a permanent position as attending physician, but Greene’s wife has other plans. Hathaway must deal with a patient (a guest starring Bobcat Goldthwaite) who thinks he’s dead and Greene is working with a cancer patient who wants to die. Deb shows up Carter again and a poisonous snake on the loose makes things interesting in the ER.

- DISC THREE -

Make Of Two Hearts (Original Air Date: February 9, 1995)
Hathaway is concerned about a young, adopted Russian girl who is abandoned by her American mother in the ER. Doctor Kayson brings Doctor Lewis some flowers and asks her to go out to dinner, while Deb consumes some LSD-laced chocolates by accident.

The Birthday Party (Original Air Date: February 16, 1995)
Doctor Hicks tells Benton that his mother’s health is affecting his work when he attempts to swap shifts to attend his mother’s birthday party. Hick suggests that Benton tale a break in order to sort things out. Doctor Ross tangles with an abusive father, while Nurse Hathaway decides that she wants to adopt the abandoned Russian girl left in the ER. Doctor Greene’s wife accepts a job in Milwaukee despite the fact that he has been offered an attending position from Doctor Morgenstern.

Sleepless In Chicago (Original Air Date: February 23, 1995)
Benton works a 48-hour shift without any sleep, causing him some problems when he’s with his mother. Greene’s wife tells him she wants to leave and Hathaway receives some bad news about her adoption. Carter prolongs the life of a terminally ill patient who wants to die and Morgenstern tells Doctor Greene that he is leaving and wants Greene to be his replacement. Hathaway drops in on Doctor Ross at a very inopportune time.

Love’s Labor Lost (Original Air Date: March 9, 1995)
Doctor Greene, hampered by personal problems, severely misdiagnoses a pregnant woman who has problems just moments after leaving the ER. One bad decision breeds another until things are seemingly out of control. Doctor Greene, as well as others, attempt to deliver the baby and at the same time, save the mother’s life. Benton deals with more personal issues stemming from his mother’s health.

Full Moon, Saturday Night (Original Air Date: March 30, 1995)
Doctor Greene, still reeling from the loss of a pregnant patient under his care, hangs around the ER just a little too long when the new chief, Doctor William Swift (Michael Ironside), shows up. Carter and Deb remain in competition with each other while Doctor Benton comes to the harsh realization that his mother is on a downward spiral.

House Of Cards (Original Air Date: April 6, 1995)
The new chief, Doctor Swift, requires that Greene go before a panel in order to present the case about his patients’ death. Meanwhile, Deb and Carter are still in furious competition and when Benton cuts a deadline by one week, Deb makes a grave mistake with a patient while trying to beat Carter. Doctor Ross’ relationship with Diane Leeds (Lisa Zane) continues to get more and more serious, while Benton decides his mother would be best served in a home.

Men Plan, God Laughs (Original Air Date: April 27, 1995)
Doctor Benton struggles to help out his parents, while Doctor Greene aggravates Doctor Swift by deciding to go to Milwaukee to try and reconcile with his wife rather than put in more time at the ER. Doctor Lewis gets more than she bargained for with a pregnant Chloe and Doctor Ross agrees to coach Diane’s son’s Little League team.

Love Among Ruins (Original Air Date: May 4, 1995)
The Greene’s marital trials and tribulations continue while Doctor Lewis’ trails and tribulations with Chloe continue. Tag and Hathaway work on their wedding vows together and things become tricky when the mention of Doug Ross comes up. Carter’s background is unearthed and the staff learns that he comes from a very wealthy family.

- DISC FOUR -

Motherhood (Original Air Date: May 11, 1995)
Oscar-winner Quentin Tarantino guest directs and things start off with a bang as Susan is forced to become a parent to Chloe’s baby when she shuns responsibility. Carter is offered the ER sub-I, but turns it down in hopes that he’ll receive a surgical position and Ross gets a little unnerved when Diane suggests they move in together. Doctor Benton learns that his mother has died.

Everything Old Is New Again (Original Air Date: May 18, 1995)
Hathaway and Tag’s wedding day encounters a few problems – Lewis can’t find Chloe (who ends up abandoning her baby) and the priest can’t find Tag. Meanwhile, Carter prepares for his last day and gives Benton some pretty harsh grades on an evaluation which he later retracts.

Watching the first season all over again just drives home how great ER was … and in some cases, still is. Warner’s comprehensive DVD set is a great way to relive the incredible inaugural season of this great show and I’m sure it will have fans clamoring for season two. Thankfully, Warner’s release schedules have been more consistent than most and I’m sure we’ll see season two up for pre-order sometime soon – and if it’s as good as this one was technically, it’ll be worth every penny.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

ER was a trailblazer in the fact that it was one of the first TV shows to be shot (and at times, presented) in anamorphic widescreen. However, I don’t recall this being the case for the first season although Warner has presented it here in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This is a show that literally begs for widescreen and thankfully, Warner has brought all of the first season episodes to the home viewing market just that way. The episodes look quite nice in their widescreen presentation and being almost a decade old, the image has held up quite well.

Warner’s presentation is quite sweet and it was very tight and detailed throughout the entire first season of episodes. Color reproduction was natural and properly rendered, although things would seem slightly soft when grain was noted in the print. However, bleeding and smearing were never a problem and fleshtones remained natural throughout. The stark and sterile hospital sets were properly lit, as were the other locations used in the show and Warner seemed to err on the side of being too dark rather than too light (which, in some places, is explained in the commentary), which was fine by me. Black levels were good, but not quite solid, although shadow detail and delineation were above average and never murky.

Across all of the discs, there were a few issues here and there that need addressing. The picture quality could be slightly inconsistent at times, but as the season matured, so did the image and flaws became less and less noticeable. There were quite a few marks and scratches, as well as some dirt noted on the print, but it was nothing overly distracting by any means. Edge enhancement and harsh artificial sharpening didn’t present any problems, although grain and a few traces of ever so slight pixilation were seen across a couple of episodes. Flakes and flecks popped up from time to time across the vast majority of the episodes, but most of them were of the “blink and you’ll miss it variety”. However, I did notice a few instances of long streaks/hairs on the print that were slightly more distracting than the aforementioned flakes, but they too, didn’t last for long. Ultimately however, Warner’s DVD presentation lacks many of the issues you might have seen had a studio less committed to quality put the series out. Warner definitely has better transfers in their stable, but considering its age and its televised origins, fans will be more than happy with ER.

The video transfer for ER: The Complete First Season is definitely a step up from the televised presentations I’ve seen in syndication and fans of the series will appreciate Warner’s attention to detail for the first in a long line of ER sets on DVD. Job well done.

Warner’s audio transfer for ER: The Complete First Season comes in a Dolby Digital 2.0 transfer that fits the material well, but also reflects its televised origins. That being said, the audio transfer for the series was much better than expected – especially for a season that’s almost a decade old.

The ER is a busy, busy place and Warner’s 2.0 mix manages to pull off some decent ambience considering the limited nature of the source recording. While ER is one of the few shows that could have benefited from a 5.1 mix, Warner brings the show home in its original, 2.0 format and for all intents and purposes, it sounds pretty darn nice.

The show is a delicate balance of dialogue, effects, and music and Warner does a superb job of balancing these three elements where no one overpowers another unless it’s appropriate for the scene at hand. The busier scenes in the ER shine through in Warner’s mix and add an urgency and robustness not found in most 2.0 tracks. There were some impressive splits and directional cues found in the mix and Warner did an excellent job in making the most of what they were given. Dialogue is still the main focus of the show and Warner has made sure that there is no hissing, popping, or distortion anywhere in the track. The spoken word was crystal clear and even with all of the hustle and bustle found in a busy ER such as this, there was no problem with intelligibility whatsoever.

ER contains one of the more memorable opening scores in recent memory (from James Newton Howard - Martin Davich scored the individual episodes) and each receives excellent treatment from Warner and both exhibit excellent dynamics and fidelity. The track displays above average dynamic range and while rear surround support is lacking, ER: The Complete First Season was quite a pleasant surprise.

In case you need ‘em, Warner has also included subtitles in French.

Warner has included a nice roster of extras to supplement the set and the most notable of those extras include four Audio Commentaries for certain episodes during the first season; “Pilot”: (2) Commentaries – One with executive producer/creator Michael Crichton and executive producer John Wells and one with director Rob Holcomb, casting director John Levy, associate producer Wendy Spence Rosato, editor Randy Jon Morgan and sound editor Walter Newman; “Love's Labor Lost” - Director Mimi Leder, associate producer Wendy Spence Rosato, editor Randy Jon Morgan, composer Martin Davich and sound editor Walter Newman; and “Sleepless in Chicago” - Producer/Director Christopher Chulack and producer Paul Manning.

Each of the commentaries contains some really great information, but after you view the Behind The Curtains supplement, much of the information is rehash. Even so, in “Pilot”, we get some great information on casting, the genesis of the show and the script that sat around for 20+ years before being picked up, the use of the steadi-cam, how the show is edited, how music and effects were designed, authored, and used to set the tone and so on. The commentary for “Love’s Labor Lost” contains a bit more information on music and sound, as well comments on creating a script and the hectic pace on this particular episode which won 5 Emmy awards. Finally, on “Sleepless in Chicago”, we get a bit more of the same, as well as some anecdotes from the set and more details specific to the story. There’s some really nice stuff learned by listening to these commentaries and here’s hoping that Warner is able to provide more on successive sets for the show.

The remainder of the supplements reside on DISC FOUR starting with Behind The Curtains - a two-part documentary (“Prescription for Success: The Birth of ER” and “First Year Rotation: Caring for ER”) that in total, runs for a little less than 42-minutes and is an absolutely incredible supplement that mixes clips from the show and recently filmed interviews with the principals and the stars and it gives us a great breakdown on the genesis of the first season. We learn about the birth of the show (based on Crichton’s actual experiences while training as a physician), the trials of having the show picked up for television, Spielberg and Amblin’s eventual involvement in the pilot and how Crichton’s mention of Jurassic Park to Spielberg slowed the development down on ER, the circumstances around casting the actors for the main roles and how close relationships were formed with the original cast, finding the perfect location, and so on.

The second portion of this supplement deals with the trials and tribulations of the first season including shooting 80-pages of script (basically, feature length) in seven days, the non-stop schedules needed to get the show made on such short time frames, the difficulties (and eventual triumphs) of working with a steadi-cam which was very unconventional at the time, the writers used on the show and how ideas became story lines, as well as touching on great episodes from the first season. Finishing off the supplement is a nice segment on the pop culture phenomenon that ER became during its first season – taking home eight Emmy’s to boot. Interviews in both sections are included with Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg, NBC President Warren Littlefield, writer and executive producer John Wells, as well as all of the main cast and crew members of the show. Great, great stuff here and anyone who remotely considers themselves a fan of the show is doing themselves a disservice by not checking this one out. Worth the price of admission in and of itself.

On The Cutting Edge: Medical Realism on ER (8:58) is next and this supplement gives us interviews with the technical advisors/consultants on the show, as well as other members of the cast and crew (including Spielberg and Crichton) and we learn how everyone involved strived for realism in every aspect of the show – starting with the script and on to the technical choreography, terminology, and props. This was the first show that really tried to bring you right into the middle of an ER and even after watching this extra, it’s hard to comprehend and really appreciate how hard those involved with the show try to make ER seem so real.

Next up is Post Operation Procedures: Post Production in the ER (5:23) and here, we learn about post production on the show and the short amount of time the editors, producers, and composer(s) have to get a show ready to run on the tube. Those involved said that there are usually eight days of shooting and after that, only three or four days before the show airs. We learn how the show is edited, how the sound and music are added and dubbed, and how all those involved in post production strive for realism in their work as well. A very informative feature and it’s unfortunate that it only runs for five minutes.

Following are Additional Scenes and included are three scenes from various episodes – “Dr. Greene and Mrs. Kosinski”, “Dr. Lewis Treats Paul”, and “Dr. Lewis Falls Asleep”. In total, there are less than five-minutes of additional footage and while it’s nice to have, spread out across twenty-five episodes, it’s hard to say that these three scenes would have added a whole lot to the series. However, like I said before, it’s nice to see their inclusion regardless.

Outtakes (10:06) are next and serve to show that while the show may be serious, there are plenty of times where lines are flubbed and pranks were played on the set. Good stuff included from the show, promos, and recent interviews.

Last up is a First Year Intern’s Handbook and this is a nice little interface that gives us access to all of the static supplements on the set. We get the Staff Roster (quick, 2-page biographical sketches on all the of main characters in the show – Greene, Ross, Lewis, Carter, Hathaway, and Benton); Admissions (broken down by episode, a listing of each and every admitted patient in season one, their ailment, and the part their admission played in the episode – very impressive!); Consulting Physicians & Hospital Support Staff (a listing of all the supporting cast in the show, along with a nice biographical sketch of their character – for example and only to name a few of the 23 characters featured, bios are included for Deb Chen, Doctor Div Cvetic, Doctor Angela Hicks, and Doctor David Morgenstern); Life Support & Home Care (a listing of family members of the staff, as well as a biographical sketch on each – also lists a bit player or two); MEDSpeak (an alphabetical listing of medical terms and slang used on the show and their meaning – quite thorough); and finally, the County General Directory (a map of the hospital with links and information available for the Suture Room, Trauma 1, Trauma 2, Exam Room 1, Exam Room 2, Nurses Station, and Doctors Lounge). This was a very impressive and educational extra. A very nice addition for sure.

Warner has also included a really nice Insert Booklet that contains cast and crew info, a breakdown of each episode, and production info. For me to even mention it in this review means that it’s very informative and very well done.

ER, especially during its first few seasons, is as good a televised drama as you’ll ever see and Warner has brought the first season home with above-average audio and video for a televised series and for the asking price, it simply can’t be beat. ER: The Complete First Season comes highly, highly recommended and will have fans anxiously awaiting season two of this excellent show.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2941 Stars Number of Votes: 34
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