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ER: The Complete Fourth Season
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Created by best-selling author Michael Crichton, this series centers on the medical personnel in the emergency room of a Chicago county hospital. ER tracks the inner workings of County General Hospital, a Level One Trauma Center where heroic doctors and nurses are faced with life-and-death decisions on a daily basis. In its fourth season, ER received 16 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series. Watch the fourth season, which begins with the critically acclaimed documentary episode that aired 'live.'
In its fourth season, ER had its strongest cast yet. Sherry Stringfield was missed, but British surgeon Elizabeth Korday (Alex Kingston) makes her debut, and Noah Wylie (John Carter) and Maria Bello (Anna Del Amico) made significant strides forward. Carter finds that his move from surgery to the ER has knocked him back to intern status, but he proves himself under fire when the ER is hit by a toxic spill. He also has plenty to worry about with his addicted cousin, Chase (Jonathan Scarfe), but he's helped by his developing relationship with Del Amico. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) is fighting legal and emotional battles following the previous season's incident, and strikes up a relationship with addled desk clerk Cynthia Hooper (Mariska Hargitay). Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) finds her promotion to chief of emergency medicine rockier than expected when she changes her mind on a deal with a cost-cutting firm, which is complicated when she's been seeing the representative (Clancy Brown). She also runs into trouble when she tries to terminate Jeanie Boulet (Gloria Reuben), who ends up staying at the ER and befriending the cancer-stricken son (Trevor Morgan) of Dr. Anspaugh (John Aylward). Peter Benton (Eriq LaSalle) struggles as a new father, develops a rivalry with Korday as he angles toward a spot on the team of arrogant hotshot Rocket Romano (Paul McCrane), and has a career-threatening disagreement with chief of staff Dr. Morgenstern (William H. Macy). Ross (George Clooney) tries a secret romance with on-again-off-again partner Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies), whose frustration with patient care leads her to open a women and children's clinic. The season kicks off with the famous live episode, "Ambush," in which a documentary film is being shot at the hospital, and in a continuing storyline, a serial rapist who preys on elderly women forces Carter to make a critical decision. Guest stars include John Cullum as Anthony Edwards' father, Harold Perrineau as the father of a boy with inverted organs, Dan Hedaya as a lawyer who wants to be a doctor, and Mickey Rooney as an optical patient. Bonus features consist of deleted scenes for a number of episodes, the wrap parties that followed the live show on each coast, and a 20-minute feature on the making of that episode, including some new interviews with the crew. --David Horiuchi
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ER has been my favorite show for years and this season, like the one before it, was one of the strongest on record. Viewers got to see into the lives of the characters and even welcomed a few more people to the County General family.
The season premiere, shot live twice, once for the east coast and once for the west coast, was a true inspiration, an idea hatched by series stars Anthony Edwards and George Clooney. Writer Carol Flint found a great way (a documentary crew is in the ER shooting) to write cameras and such into the story and from there, it is all the actors, as they shine in their moment in the sun.
This season brings some changes to the county general staff. Dr. Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) is promoted to interim chief of emergency medicine after Dr. Morgenstern (guest star William H. Macy) has a heart attack in the season premiere. Her management style is quite brash and certainly irritates those who have to work for her. Her decision to first hire, then not, an outside management firm was made even more difficult by the fact that she was dating the man who was trying to bring the program into county (guest star Clancy Brown).
Elizabeth Korday (Alex Kingston) comes across the pond to join the County General staff as a fellow under Dr. Robert Romano (guest star and future series regular Paul McCrane). Her introduction to American television is the live episode, but her character goes through a lot in her first year. She fights off the advances of Dr. Romano, instead chasing after fellow surgeon Peter Benton (Eriq LaSalle). She gets a first hand look at just how different things can be in the United States, and as the season ends, she finds herself looking for a way to stay after Romano doesn't renew her fellowship.
Maria Bello joins the regular cast as Anna Del Amico, an ER resident. She guest starred in the end of season three and in season four finds herself in a budding relationship with Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle). She also finds herself at odds with the filmmakers in the live episode and deals with the returning of a former boyfriend as the season comes to a close.
Dr. Benton has to adjust to life as a father after having a son in the end of season three. He also pursues a relationship with Dr. Korday and makes a career-threatening move when he questions the work of Dr. Morgenstern, pushing aside the senior doctor in a bold surgical room move. He also has to deal with his son's mother Carla (guest star Lisa Nicole Carlson) moving on with another man.
Dr. Carter had a trying year, as he had to deal with the drug addiction of his cousin Chase (guest star Johnathan Scarfe) and also had to deal with humility when he decides to cut himself off from his family's money and has to go back to being an intern after switching from surgery to emergency medicine. Perhaps the shining moment of this season is when Carter takes control of the ER after a toxic mishap, and shows just what kind of doctor he can be, something viewers got to see for years after.
Dr. Doug Ross (Clooney) also didn't have an easy year, as he went up against Weaver with the suggestion of a pediatric ER department with himself as Pediatric attending. The situation is still unresolved at the end of the season, but it is just one more thing to put Dr. Ross at odds with the bosses. He also suffers the loss of his father in a car accident in Californnia, which leads to a great episode where he and Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) travel to California together.
Of course Ross wouldn't be complete without nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies). As the season begins, the two are in a secret relationship, but the truth soon comes out. Carol grows tired of the patient care and opens a free clinic in the ER, thanks to some timely funds from Carter's grandmother (guest star Frances Sternhagen). She also assists Ross in a questionable procedure at the end of the season, one that puts both of their careers in jeopardy.
Dr. Greene pays a couple of visits to see his parents, bonding with his father (guest star John Cullum) on a second trip when his mother is ill. Mark is also still recovering from an attack in the men's room in the previous season, making him question just about everything in his life. He gets in a relationship with desk clerk Cynthia Hooper (guest star Mariska Hargitay) and battles with Weaver over numbers of things, a normal occurence in the world of my favorite character on this show.
Finally, PA Jeannie Boulet (Gloria Reuben), my least favorite character in the 12 years this show has been on the air, has to deal with her firing because of budget cuts. She believes its because of her HIV status and sues for her job back, which she gets. Her husband leaves for Atlanta and she forms a bond with the son of Dr. Anspaugh (John Aylward), a young cancer patient. I just never cared that much for this character, mainly because I found her to be selfish in a lot of ways, but maybe that's just me.
This season featured a number of great guest stars, including many who went on to star in shows in the future, or came from past shows. Cullum (Northern Exposure) was great as Mark Greene's father. Harold Perrineau (Lost) does a turn as the father of a critically injured boy. George Eads (CSI) plays a paramedic with a thing for Hathaway. Hargitay (Law and Order SVU) is fantastic as Cynthia the desk clerk. Sternhagen (Cheers) is great as Carter's stoic grandmother. Jorja Fox (CSI) continues her recurring role as Dr. Maggie Doyle. A number of great actors had spots on this show and this list is only a partial listing.
As for extras, there are two features on the live episode, including one that was filmed immediately after the two live episodes. The other feature talks about the work that went into the live episode and how they pulled it off. There is a gag reel and a number of deleted scenes as well.
Since this is my favorite show, I am bound to praise this set, but anybody looking for quality television should look no further than this.
Season four of "ER" is excellent and exciting dramatic television, but I must say it doesn't quite live up to the standard set by the amazing first three seasons. Do not take this as a negative, however. For the most part, this season is excellent. The only problem is a handful of episodes I could have done without.
I'll start with the season premiere, "Ambush." This is the famous live episode that was performed twice, once for the East Coast, and once for the West Coast. OK, so yes, this episode is a marvel of television and a technical masterpiece and it's simply amazing that it managed to air at all, and also that they did it twice, in a row no less. However, I just don't think this episode is very good at all. In fact, I hate it. I think if it wasn't for the fact that it aired live, it would be counted among the worst episodes of the series, if not the all time worst episode. I'm sorry, but this episode is just completely cheesy and campy and really quite awful. It has a whole different look from the other episodes, being that it aired live and all, and the whole style is like that of a different show. I also think that the plot is stupid and unrealistic and only a gimmick for the excuse to show it live. Also, the drama in this episode is really weak. It feels more like a high school play than a serious, high budget television series. All in all, a big dissapointment.
Fortunately, things get back on track after this disastrous episode, but there are still two episodes that lower the rating for me. The first one is "Fathers and Sons" and the second one is "Family Practice." I have heard of people who like these episodes a lot, but I am not one of them. I believe the show is called "ER" and to have two episodes that don't even take place in the ER is just stupid to me. The acting and all in these episodes is fine, and we do learn a lot about Ross and Greene, but I just prefer it when the show takes place in the hospital. Plus, these episodes seriously lack the ensemble power of great "ER." The only cast members to appear in "Fathers and Sons" are Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, and Julianna Margulies, and then "Family Practice" has Anthony Edwards going completely solo! I don't understand why a celebrated ensemble show would have episodes with only three cast members in it (or just one, in the case of "Family Practice").
Aside from these episodes, though, "ER" season four rolls along smoothly. The adventures continue and the characters grow, for example:
Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards): Mark has some real trouble this season. He's still all bent out of shape after the brutal beatdown he got in the previous season, and is still fighting to get the person he suspects beat him thrown in prison. Also, Mark has a memorable romantic fling with Mariska Hargitay, who plays Cynthia Hooper for an extended run this season.
Doug Ross (Geoge Clooney): Doug and Carol are finally together in this season, after three seasons of being apart. Doug has plenty of excitement this year, and a top example is his relationship with Carol. Also, he illegally tries to help detox a little baby and gets in major trouble with Greene for it.
John Carter (Noah Wyle): We get a large glimpse into the family life on Carter this season, when we meet his grandmother (played by the always excellent Frances Sternhagen) and his drug addicted cousin. Carter works hard to cure his cousin of his drug addiction, but in the end fails, and takes the scoldings of his family members. Carter also has some romantic tension with new-to-the-cast Del Amico and makes a controversial decision with a known rapist.
Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies): 'Tis an exciting year for Carol. She comes up with an excellent plan to offer a free nursing center for poor people in the ER, and asks for the help of Carter's grandmother. She also deals with commitment problems with Ross and meets several woman who have been raped by the same man.
Jeannie Boulet (Gloria Reuben): It's another sad but intense year for the wonderful Boulet. She is now back with her ex-husband, but he eventually leaves to get a job somewhere else after being fired from his job in Chicago. Jeannie is left alone and forms a bond with Dr. Anspaw's sickly son. She also fights hard to keep her job after she is let go, and there is a good amount of tension between her and Weaver.
Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes): Weaver infuriates Boulet when she is forced to fire her, and takes some heat for this decision. She also has a romantic affair with a man who wants her to invest into another company, but ends us betrated and angry.
Anna Del Amico (Maria Bello): This interesting character would unfortunately only be around for this season and this season only, which makes it hard to really get into her character. For what it's worth, she does get some very interesting storylines in her only season, including romance with Carter. She also deals with her only personal beliefs in an episode where an abortion clinic is bombed (one of the best of this season, by the way). She also has hardships when her old boyfriend returns to town.
Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston): Season four introduces this character, who will be around for quite awhile, which we are all grateful for. Corday has a year of thrills when she comes to America to work at County General. She ends up in a romantic relationship with Benton and fights against the snide comments of resident jackass Romano.
Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle): Peter learns what it means to be a father in this season as he takes care of his new baby. This brings out an interesting new aspect in Peter's character. He also dates Corday and this leads to some excellent storylines.
So, there you have it. Season four of "ER" has a pretty large cast, as you can see. Although Sherry Stringfield is gone, we get the addition of two new characters, bringing the total cast up to nine characters.
Despite my negative comments earlier, I would like to state that "ER" season four is a prime example of the show's brilliance and an excellent year for those seeking classic "ER."
The DVD continues the high standards set by the previous three seasons. The episodes are in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen (except for "Ambush," which is still presented in fullscreen format) and the picture quality is excellent.
The extras are actually my favorite of the four seasons currently out. The documentaries about "Ambush" are actually far better than the actual episode, and give you a good idea of what a remarkable job it was to create this episode and put in on the screens. The post shows for both versions of the episode are very interesting, too (if a bit too self congratulatory, especially from John Wells).
What can I say? Although I liked the first three seasons better, season four is not far behind, and is an excellent year of "ER," truly. Pick it up today.
Make sure you purchase this set at your local Target, since they offer it the cheapest ($29.99) and give you a bonus disc of the East Coat airing of "Ambush."
Fans of the show will be treated to roughly 16 hours chock full of trauma intertwined with personal and professional relationship trials between the doctors, nurses, support staff, and patients. The unrated six-disc set includes 22 episodes, Spanish and French language subtitles, and numerous special features including outpatient outtakes, a "Cutups" gag reel, "Anatomy of an Ambush", and the "Ambush live post-show". Outpatient outtakes allow viewers to watch deleted scenes straight from the cutting room floor, while the "Ambush" special features include analysis and discussion of the live episode as well as the subsequent celebration among the cast and crew.
The fourth season is ripe with talented and beautiful actors - some of the most adored cast members in ER history. The primary cast includes returning favorites George Clooney (Dr. Doug Ross), Anthony Edwards (Dr. Mark Greene), Noah Wyle (Dr. John Carter), Julianna Margulies (Nurse Carol Hathaway), Gloria Reuben (P.A. Jeanie Boulet), Eriq LaSalle (Dr. Peter Benton), Laura Innes (Dr. Kerry Weaver), and Maria Bello (Dr. Anna Del Amico). Also returning are Paul McCrane (Dr. Romano), William H. Macy (Dr. Morgenstern), and John Aylward (Dr. Anspaugh).
New stars to the ER this season include Alex Kingston (Dr. Corday), Mariska Hargitay (Cynthia Hooper), and Yvette Freeman (Nurse Adams). Recurring and special guest stars include Lisa Nicole Carson, Telma Hopkins, Dan Hedaya, CCH Pounder, Chad Lowe, Jorja Fox, Alan Alda, Harold Perrineau Jr.
This season also plays host to intense storylines, and, of course, emergencies. The DVD set begins with the legendary "Ambush" episode-ER's live season opener. Additional ighlights of the season include:
Dr. Greene dealing with the aftereffects of his mugging, his estranged family, and his wavering feelings for Hooper;
Dr. Ross losing his father, and potentially his fiancé and career;
Physician Assistant Boulet dealing with HIV and the stigma associated with it;
Benton's relationships with his newborn son, his girlfriend Carla, and his budding relationship with Dr. Corday;
The negative impact Synergix (an ER management firm) has on the lives of the staff;
Carter trying to cope with his drug addicted cousin and personal issues with the remainder of his family;
And much more!
The fourth season ER DVD is a must have for die hard ER fans, as well as for anyone who just loves a well-written, well-established drama.