July 17, 2006

DVD Review: ER - The Complete Fifth Season

It's hard to believe that it has been nearly 12 years since ER first graced our television screens. I remember tuning in week after week to see what would happen, it was, after all, an important part of NBC's "Must See TV" in their era of Thursday domination. This fifth season was during that time, and contains some very good episodes.

Season five still had the bulk of the original cast, although the season did see the exit of George Clooney's Doug Ross. This was before the death of Mark Green, and the exits of Julianna Margulies and Eriq La Salle. In other words, it was the glory years, not that I don't like the show now, but my interest isn't as high as it once was.

Even more than revisiting the season's episodes, but I was fascinated by how different some of the characters were compared to how they are now. This pays testament to the actual character development over the years. This is especially a treat for long time fans. I have been a fan for most of the seasons, although my interest has wavered here and there, so my memories of these older episodes is a bit vague with bits and pieces being dredged up as I watch.

Back to those characters, the character that has gone through the most, also happens to be the one primary cast member that has been there since the beginning, Dr. John Carter, played by Noah Wylie. This guy has been through so much over the years, and is probably the best reason to really watch. Who would have guessed that this character, who started as that nervous intern who didn't know what he wanted, while he played with the grownups would develop into this excellent character and really be the center of the show for so many years? This season starts off with Carter having a new look, a beard, which would disappear rather quickly, but it also has him dealing with transitioning into teacher mode, paired with newcomer Lucy Knight, played by Kellie Martin. Carter doesn't deal with teacher bit too well, either being too combative, or too lenient at alternating clips. A vast difference from the "will he make it" intern, through to the continent hopping doctor to the world he has become.

Other story lines to emerge this season include Dr. Benton dealing with his son's profound loss of hearing, as well as his breakup with Elizabeth Corday. That brings us to the story of Corday who moves on from Benton to Mark Greene, a relationship that will last until his death a few years later. Continuing their saga are Carol Hathaway and Doug Ross, a turbulent 5 year, er season, romance that comes to an end when Ross leaves town, after getting run out of County General. He leaves behind Hathaway who has just found out she is pregnant.

On top of the weaving of character threads, there is always a good blend of bizarre cases and emergencies. Car wrecks, shootings, in ER drama, emergency surgery, inter-departmental conflicts, they are all here to keep those personal stories from being resolved too quickly.

Overall, this is a strong season. It is capped with strong performances, and well written screenplays. Definitely worthwhile for fans.

Video. This season is presented in anamorphic widescreen, a ratio of 1.78:1. One thing to note is that the opening credit sequence is still in a ratio of 1.33:1. I cannot figure out why this is, surely they could have given us a widescreen sequence, but it's a minor quibble. The transfer looks very good, colors are sharp, blacks deep. It doesn't look as good as some of the latest movies, but I find nothing to complain about here.

Audio. The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital Stereo. It sounds very good, not much to say, as I did not have any problems with it.

Extras. A little thin in this department, with just a few sets of deleted scenes, and a gag reel. A couple commentaries, featurettes, or interviews, would have been nice.

Bottomline. For the fan, this should be a no-brainer. This is a very good season, and the episodes are well presented here. The new fan would probably want to go back to the first season and work towards this one.

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