Hollywood! Adapt This: EMERGENCY!

     July 7, 2013


The television landscape is populated with hit medical dramas across the decades, from Dr. Kildare, M*A*S*H and Marcus Welby, M.D., to Grey’s Anatomy, House and, of course, ER.  One series that ran alongside M*A*S*H centered on the emergency personnel of Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Station 51 and nearby Rampart General Hospital.  It was the first of its kind to feature paramedics responding to emergency calls in addition to the in-hospital staff they handed their patients off to.  It’s been more than 40 years since this show debuted and it’s time to shine the spotlight on these real-life professionals once again.  Hit the jump for more.  Hollywood!  Adapt this: Emergency!

emergency-season-1What It’s About: 

Created and produced by Jack Webb and Robert A. Cinader, the brains behind police series Adam-12 and Dragnet, Emergency! was a one-hour medical drama that featured emergency personnel dealing with multiple incidents throughout their shift.  Two of the stand-outs of the show were paramedics John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe) which introduced audiences to the pre-hospital professionals and first responders to emergency calls.  Once delivered safely to Rampart General, the patients landed in the competent hands of staff physician/surgeon Dr. Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller), Head Nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London), intern Dr. Mike Morton (Ron Pinkard) and physician/surgeon Dr. Joe Early (Bobby Troup).  It ran for six seasons between 1972 and 1977, with 129 episodes that included six TV movies.

How Could / Why Should It Be Adapted: 

I’ll confess to having a personal stake in seeing Emergency! rebooted for today’s audience.  My dad has been practicing in the field of emergency medicine since before the show even debuted.  He and his co-workers used to watch the episodes at their own squad station and were the first among what would become a loyal fanbase.  Later, when the series had long been cancelled but seasons were available on VHS tapes (kids, ask your parents), my brother and I would watch Emergency! with our dad, which was both nostalgic for him and a sort of time capsule for us to see the way pre-hospital emergency medicine was in its infancy.

emergency-station-51Recently, for this past Father’s Day, I traveled to the home of the fictional Station 51 here in southern California in order to take pictures and video to share with my dad.  The very real LACoFD Station 127 has been dubbed the Robert A. Cinader Memorial Fire Station in honor of the show’s creator and remains very much the same as it appeared in the show.  The lounge, kitchen, apparatus floor/garage, locker room and barracks are relatively untouched, except for a few modern conveniences here and there.  Unfortunately, the station is due to be brought up to code any day now, meaning the 70s aesthetic will be all but wiped out.  I was glad I got the opportunity to capture the station the way my dad remembers it from the show, but it got me thinking that two generations have passed since Emergency! was on the air.

In the last 40 years, emergency medicine has progressed much further than the general population understands.  It’s now commonly accepted (and simple common sense) that the earlier medical professionals can get to a patient, the better their chances for a healthy recovery.  Paramedics and first responders are the link between a 911 call and a hospital admission, a space of time that can make all the difference.  Much of the television landscape in recent years has been dedicated to the high-stress environment in emergency rooms, operating rooms or, in the case of the most recent effort Chicago Fire, burning buildings.  There’s a lot more that goes on in the world of emergency medicine; paramedics are the missing piece.

emergency-kevin-tighe-randolph-mantoothThe Final Word

An Emergency! reboot could easily work as a spin-off of a hospital drama that’s already on the air or in tandem with a new show that’s in development.  A clever writing staff and production team could actually work the final patient hand-off at the end of Emergency! into the hospital drama that leads off the next hour of programming.  Paramedics see a wide variety of calls come across the board and real-life cases often produce the best TV drama.  Particularly nasty cases could result in a call being put out to a medical helicopter tasked with transporting the patient as quickly as possible.  The helicopter personnel could be worked in to the Emergency! reboot or could even have a spin-off as its own series.  Needless to say, there’s plenty of real-world drama that provides an opportunity for a fictionalized reboot of Emergency!, and it’s long-past time this segment of emergency medicine was brought to light.  Check out the show’s intro below.

Be sure to tune in next week when Hollywood! Adapt This takes on another property that deserves a reboot/remake/revival.  Haven’t seen your favorite show here yet?  Be sure to let us know what you’d like to see in the comments!