It goes without saying that NBC’s classic drama, Emergency! is one of the best and most important series in the history of modern television. The show was fictional, but thanks to everything that it portrayed over the course of its six seasons on television from 1972-77, the face of field medicine in the real world completely changed. What’s more, if not for the landmark series, audiences today might not have medical dramas past and present, such as E.R., 9-1-1, and even Chicago Fire. So in reality, Emergency! remains one of the most important series not only of its kind but in general more than 40 years after it ended. This past September, Universal re-issued the series in whole on DVD. The re-issue came more than five years after Universal’s then most recent release of the series. Sadly, there is little to applaud in this latest presentation, save for the seemingly reduced price, which will be discussed shortly. The packaging is atrocious in comparison to that of the set’s 2016 release and is its biggest detriment. This will be discussed a little later. The production is also problematic and will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the set’s presentation. Even taking everything into consideration, it still falls short of expectations in comparison to its predecessor.
Universal’s recent DVD re-issue of Emergency!: The Complete Series is a somewhat disappointing new offering from the company. Coming more than five years after the company’s most recent presentation of the series, there is not a whole lot to “write home about.” One thing that can perhaps be said to the positive about the set is its pricing. In comparison to the that of the 2016 set’s pricing, it does seem to be less expensive on average at least. Using listings at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble Booksellers (It was not listed through Books-A-Million and Target at the time of this review’s posting), the new 2021 set’s average price point is $77.48. That is down, but only slightly, from the average price point of $77.75 for the 2016 set. So in reality, the difference literally comes down to a matter of cents. So it is debatable in reality whether the pricing in this case can actually be considered a full positive. Looking a little bit closer though, the separate listings paint a slightly fuller picture. The 2021 release is listed at $54.99 at Amazon and Walmart (in-store) versus $84.99 at Best Buy and $102.99 through Barnes & Noble. By comparison even more, Amazon lists the 2016 release at $67.51 while the most expensive listing through Walmart online from 2016 is $78.99. Of course it should be noted here that the stated price is through a third party seller. Best Buy’s listing for the 2016 set is also at $84.99, so that is the same price as that for the 2021 set. Barnes & Noble lists the 2016 set at $90.99. So again, the pricing for the 2021 set is actually lower than that of the 2016 set. The thing of it is though, the pricing is likely lower because less material is used in the set’s packaging, which is its most detrimental aspect here.
The packaging for the 2021 presentation of Emergency!: The Complete Series is atrocious in comparison to that of the 2016 set. The 2021 set places the series in whole in one large box a la so many of the shows that CBS DVD and Paramount have done. By comparison, the 2016 release has all six seasons (yes, “The Final Rescues” are in that set, too) in their own standalone cases inside the larger box. That might have driven up that set’s price, but it was smart packaging. It made the price worth it. In the case of the 2021 set, the seasons’ discs are all housed in the one box, stacked on top of one another throughout. Everyone knows what that leads to: increased offs of discs scratching one another and in turn reducing the discs’ life spans. Making matters even worse is that the episode guide is printed on the inside of the case’s art. The manner in which the discs are housed completely covers the episode guides. Audiences have to actually play out the discs to get episode summaries. The standalone season sets, by comparison, offer full episode guides, complete with episode summaries inside the cases. Those guides are far more accessible, too. To that end, Universal could have at least separated the episode guide into its own standalone booklet in the case of this new 2021 full series set. So therein is even more detriment to the presentation. As if that is not enough, the full series presentation with the series’ standalone sets in one box takes up about the same amount of space on DVD/BD racks as the new set, so even to that end, audiences are not losing out anything. It’s yet more proof of how badly this set fails and certainly not the last, either.
As if all of the concerns raised through the set’s packaging are not enough, the quality of the footage in the episodes makes the presentation even worse. The discs featured in the set are the same ones used in the standalone season sets. This means that the grainy look of the footage is just the same here as in the standalone sets. By comparison, the footage has continued to look so much better in its airings on Me-TV and CoziTV over the years. This shows that it is possible to have had the footage re-mastered and cleaned up in its quality. Maybe that can and should be done for a future Blu-ray release for the series. If it can be cleaned up for television broadcast, there is no reason that it should not have been cleaned up for its DVD presentations. Keeping that in mind along with the problems posed through the set’s packaging and the only slightly lower price from the set’s previous release, this latest presentation ultimately proves more failure than fun.
Universal’s recent DVD re-issue of Emergency!: The Complete Series is a disappointing new presentation of the landmark series. If anything, it is a complete dishonor to the show, its cast, and the show’s legacy. That is proven in part through pricing that is only slightly less expensive than that of the series’ previous full series release. The set’s packaging is noticeably less smart than that of its predecessor. Instead of simply presenting the seasons in their standalone sets, as with the set’s previous presentation, the seasons’ discs are stacked on top of one another throughout the set, thus increasing the chance that the discs will damage one another. This is so much less positive than that of the show’s previous full series presentation. The grainy quality of the footage in comparison to its quality on television rounds out its problems. It is sad that in an age when such aged footage can be re-mastered and cleaned up, it still has yet to happen. Each item noted is important in its own way to the latest full-series presentation of Emergency! All things considered, they make this latest presentation a notable step down from the series’ 2016 full series release.
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