Written by Hombre Divertido
After an extremely weak ninth season that marked the first full season without the stabilizing force of the now-deceased Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), whose absence was felt throughout a season that fraught with one-dimensional performances, limited storylines, and the shark-jumping helicopter accident that lead to the ruining of one of the best antagonists on television, one might have easily seen the ninth season as the beginning of the end to this long-running television drama. Luckily for fans of ER, the writers, producers, etc. bounced back with an extremely strong season filled with new cast members and well written stories for our veterans.
On March 3rd Warner Home Video released the complete tenth season of ER on a six-disc set, and from the opening segment of the first episode, “Now What?” in which Carter (Noah Wyle) returns from Africa to the bedside of Abby (Maura Tierney) in a moment so well-crafted visually and musically to be described as nothing less than elegant, just before Abby awakes and rips Carter’s heart out in a manner sure to make all men shudder, fans were notified that ER was truly back and this season was to be something special.
For the most part this season lives up to the expectations established by the opening segment of the first episode. Though the second episode does not take place in the ER, but rather in Africa as Carter returns in search of Lukas’ (Goran Visnjic) body after the staff is informed of his death, it contains some of the most dramatic, well-written, and well-acted moments of the series thus far.
The writing this season does, to an extent, return to the roots of the show, and allow for the stories of the patients to take more of the focus than in the ninth season, and this is a welcome relief. Yes, there are still plenty of wonderful storylines revolving around the cast including those already mentioned from the second episode, but the show was built on a balance of the two, and this season reflects a quality found in balance.
Bob Newhart makes several appearances in a heartfelt, Emmy-nominated performance as a suicidal elderly man, slowly losing his sight, who is befriended by Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield). There are many other well-written storylines that revolve around visitors to the ER including a mother who sets fire to herself in front of her son in “Out of Africa,” a visit from some Amish teenagers in “Missing,” the family in crisis in “NICU,” and many more.
Unfortunately not all the stories are golden. Dr. Romano (Paul McCrane) now only has one arm, and though this situation creates some reasonably enjoyable moments as in “Dear Abby,” the character is no longer as much fun as he used to be. The writers have fixed something that was oh so far from broken, and it just does not work. The final appearance of Dr. Romano in “Freefall” marks some of the worst writing of the season, and the loss of the best antagonist ever to hit the ER before or after. McCrane deserves much praise for his performance, as the likes of the Rocket will not be seen again on television anytime soon.
There is great chemistry in the cast, but simply not enough for everyone to do. They would be thinned in coming years, and though some members will be missed, it is for the best. Though the tenth season marks the introduction of some fine new characters including Scott Grimes as Dr. Archie Morris and Parminder Nagra as Neela Rasgotra, both of which play key roles in the success of the show beyond this season, Linda Cardellini takes a bit longer to settle into her shoes as youthful take-charge nurse Sam Taggert. Her storylines are simply too contrived during this season, and the performance is inconsistent.
As in previous releases there is not a lot of bonus material. For the most part the deleted scenes entitled “Outpatient Outtakes” have been deservedly deleted. The exception may be the clips from “Blood Relations” where the scenes are actually enjoyable to watch after viewing the episode. The one gag reel is cute at best.
Recommendation: The tenth season is for both the true fan of the show or someone new to ER. This is simply quality television to be enjoyed by all.