ER has been on television for a long time. It has just completed its thirteenth season, a good number for any show, but for one that has gone through as many cast permutations as this to still survive as a ratings leader is an impressive feat. At this point, all of the original cast has left. We have seen originals die, leave, get fired, quit, and even come back. Fortunately, the show has never relied on the original faces to move stories forward. Instead, the fresh faces get pushed to the head of the class, each one getting their time to shine. While the seventh season features a few of those original core members, there are others who have stepped up to shine in the spotlight.
ER has been a show that I have followed in spurts. Occasionally I have drifted away, but somehow I have always found my way back. While the writing has always kept up a certain level of quality, it is a distinctly different experience now than it was back in 2000-2001, when this season aired. It seems that the episodic budget was higher back in those days. There is a more filmic quality to the episodes, and more intense out of the ER experiences. Fortunately, that is not what the show has always been about, it has usually focused more on the characters, and even those have a different feel today than earlier in the series.
The seventh season is a strong one. It features big revelations such as Dr. Greene's (Anthony Edwards) brain tumor, Dr. Weaver's (Laura Innes) sexuality, and a strong arc featuring Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) and her bipolar mother, played wonderfully by Sally Field. let us not forget the three-way romance between Abby, troubled Dr. Kovac (Goran Visnjic), and Dr. Carter (Noah Wylie), for whom she is also an NA/AA sponsor. This season features Carter's return from the brink of addiction and his troubles reintegrating to hospital life, as well as the build-up to the final fight between Dr. Benton (Eriq LaSalle) and Dr. Romano (Paul McCrane).
What each season, this included, is very good at is balancing the personal and professional aspects of the characters' lives. The writers are very good at moving from those relationships right into the latest weird patient case to come crashing through their doors. I think that is what keeps me coming back, that blend of character development and visceral excitement. Through the years they have only gotten better at this and the smooth manner in which new characters are introduced. They are seemlessly integrated as full rather than as newbies. A perfect example of this is the recent addition (at the time) of Maura Tierney, with her getting one of the top plot threads of the season.
While the show is very good at the relationships and the job, it has a real-time aspect that, due to its longevity has been allowed to grow in a believable manner. You can watch characters like Dr. Carter go from fresh faced intern in the debut season to a seasoned doctor and leader, to an addict, and back without ever feeling cheated. You get to see these personal developments, along with the professional, as they also go through their promotions and such as the ER's landscape changes.
Rewatching these older episodes just brings back memories of when they originally aired. I like the brashness of Palladino, the growth of Carter, and the paternal nature of Greene. I also realize that I cannot stand Dr. Corday (Alex Kingston), I am not sure what it is, but whenever she was onscreen, I cringe. I don't recall this reaction during my first-run viewings, but something between then and now has soured me on the character.
Still, this is a very good season with some nice drama, some comedic touches, and overall good characters. It is a series that may show some wear, but manages to come out on top as one that deserves the longevity that it has had.
Audio/Video. Both are good. The widescreen anamorphic (except the opening credits) video looks good, colors are strong with no blemishes to complain about. The audio is a stereo mix that may seem a bit limited in the more chaotic scenes, but still does a fine job of giving us the spread of the land.
Extras. 16 of the 33 episodes have deleted scenes to view, called "Outpatient Outtakes." There is also a 9 minute gag reel on the sixth, and final, disk of the set. I always wish that these sets would come with more, a featurette or a couple of commentaries would be nice.
Bottomline. Nicely put together set for a show that should be seen. This is a good season with some excellent episodes. It is a good example of a true ensemble series that does not fall even when the leads leave. If you are a fan, get this set. if you are even vaguely interested, definitely check it out.