ER: The Complete First Season

ER: The Complete First Season (1994)
Warner Home Video
Cast: George Clooney, Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Outtakes, Additional Scenes, Handbook

Since its first episode, "ER" has established itself as a runaway success and season after season, the show has fascinated fans and critics alike and has also kick-started the career of Hollywood leading man George Clooney. Now, Warner Home Video has prepared a 4-disc DVD set with the entire first season of the show, complemented by a number of exciting extras, which give you a more in-depth look at the show.

Written by Michael Crichton, "ER" is the story of an emergency room crew as the show visits their day to day lives and the dramatic, and often tragic, events playing out in the bleak halls of a hospital emergency room. The show’s success is certainly based on a number of factor’s, one of them being the formidable cast that puts in superb performances for every single one of the episodes, as well as the episodes themselves. Filled with twists and turns, a lot of human emotions, drama, tragedy and sometimes heart-warming miracle-like twists, "ER" deserves its reputation as one of the best TV series thoroughly.

This DVD set contains the episodes from the TV show in matted <$PS,widescreen> versions that are <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. The transfer for the episodes is very clean and clear and offers an incredible amount of definition. The color reproduction is also very good, bringing to life the cold sterile environments of the hospital sets, as well as the warmer and more saturated colors of the more intimate settings. Skin tones are natural looking and colors are never bleeding or washed out by noise. The transfer also offers up solid black levels, firmly rooting the image and lending it visual depth. Shadow definition is very good making sure all details remain intact without breaking up. No edge-enhancement is evident giving the image a sharp but also very natural look without ringing artifacts. The compression of the material has been done very well and the use of DVD-18s to accommodate the episodes allowed for plenty of headroom to keep the transfer free of compression artifacts.

The audio on the release is a <$DD,Dolby Digital> Stereo presentation that is equally well produced. Free of hiss or distortion, the audio is always balanced. A good frequency response ensures that overall natural quality of the track, especially the dialogues, and the dynamic range of the track allows for subtle moments with only ambient noises, as well as the chaotic scenes of overall craziness when everything goes into the frenzy of a large-scale emergency.

As a bonus, Warner Home Video has added <$commentary,commentary track>s to three of the season’s episodes, namely the pilot, episode 17 "Sleepless in Chicago" and episode 18, "Love’s Labor Lost." The commentaries – mostly group commentaries featuring the writers and directors and other crew members – are very insightful and often make you wish there were more of them. Being a TV series that works along certain patterns, additional <$commentary,commentary track>s may have been a bit repetitive and ultimately unexciting, so Warner’s decision to include commentary only on some of the pivotal episodes makes absolute sense.

On the fourth disc of the set there are some more supplements, such as four different making-of featurettes featuring interviews with the series’ stars and crew. Covering such topics as the conception of the TV series, the medical realism on the show and how it is achieved, the post production of the show and the tribulations of the first season, these featurettes are insightful and entertaining, especially for those intimately familiar with the show.

You will also find additional scenes and outtakes on this disc, as well as the first-year handbook for emergency interns, which contains a plethora of life-saving tips and information. The set also contains a brief printed episode guide with outlines for each of the episodes of the first season.

Warner Home Video delivers a sweet package for "ER" fans here. The presentation quality is top notch and certainly beats any broadcast version you may have seen, and on top of it, it offers some great supplements that enrich the experience. There can be n doubt that this box set is a must-buy for all ER fans, and even those who enjoy the show only occasionally.