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DVD Review: ER – The Complete Fifth Season

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After four full seasons of a show, any fan might fear that the ever-elusive shark may be preparing to be jumped. In the case of the fifth season of ER, one might fear the shark has arrived in the form of Kellie Martin, who came to fame on the popular ABC series Life Goes On. Ms. Martin plays medical student Lucy Knight, who experiences her first day in the ER within the first episode of season five.

Though Ms. Martin did not turn out to be the shark, it is clear in the first few episodes of season five that they are a circling. Mare Winningham of St. Elmo’s Fire fame shows up, as does a constipated horse, a patient wired with dynamite, a stricken magician, and much more. For the most part interesting premises abound, yet they are often handled in all too trite of a fashion

This was the year where the writers clearly started to forget that the success of the show in the early years was due to the storylines being based more on the patients than on the staff. The exception to that rule in season five is when the staff leaves the ER. Those stories, though revolving around the staff, are some of the best of this season, with one in particular being one of the best ever.

Luckily for ER fans, the writers regain their early series form after the first few episodes, the story lines settle down, and season five turns out to be a great season. Fans still have the original cast, sans Sherry Stringfield, for most of this season and they all have their limbs. In fact, Dr. Romano is at his enjoyable worst in many episodes of season five.

As mentioned, there are a few gems here, primarily when the staff leave the ER. Dr. Carter (Noah Wiley) makes a few trips outside the ER during this season, but it is episode 16, entitled “Middle of Nowhere,” that is the best of the bunch. This episode focuses on Dr. Benton (Eriq LaSalle) working at a rural clinic in Mississippi. It is brilliantly written by Carol Flint, the direction by Jonathan Kaplan is excellent, and features a great score.

Season Five also marks the last of George Clooney as Dr. Ross. The departure is well worth watching as the episodes leading up to it are well crafted. Again, primarily because it is not all focused on the staff. We are introduced to a mother struggling with the slow death of her son to a debilitating disease that she passed on to not only him, but to his older brother who has already succumbed to the effects.

The extras in this set are not much to see. Each of the 6 DVDs contains what are called outpatient outtakes i.e. deleted scenes. The sixth DVD also includes one of the worst gag reels ever seen. It literally looks like they went back and told the actors to make some mistakes so they could have a gag reel.

Recommendation: This is a key season, and thus a must have for any true ER fan. It is also a must for any Eriq LaSalle fan simply for episode sixteen and his part in the conclusion of episode five.

The episodes improve as the season progresses, so buy the set, and chuck disk one.

Written by Hombre Divertido

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
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