Monday, March 17, 2014

squad 51

Jack Webb followed his successful Dragnet with Adam-12 and then to Emergency!.  Like the two previous shows, Emergency! focused on the lives of two civil servants, going day to day doing their job.  Unlike Webb's previous productions, Emergency focused on the lives of two paramedics, John Gage and Roy DeSoto, rather than law enforcement officers. 

I've watched all the Dragnet shows and the characters are stoic and the scripts dry and often preachy.  Even Harry Morgan's Bill Gannon's comic lines were dry and added minimal warmth to the show.  Dragnet begat Adam-12 which was a little warmer, but still a little dry and impersonal.

Emergency! came along and there was more warmth to the show.  Sure there was all the professional tech jargon and proper procedure being exhibited that Mark VII Limited productions had become known for, but the characters of Emergency were warmer and more identifiable.  As the show progressed, the viewer got to enjoy the interaction, the community of people working together at both the Rampart General  and at L.A. Fire Station 51.  This community ~ the relationships were something new for Webb to show the audience. 

I enjoyed revisiting Emergency! this past month these three decades later.  As a youth I'd  watch the show for the rescues, but found myself enjoying it for the relationships portrayed within the story.  Should I dare relate the kind of community portrayed in this show likened those memorable characters in the old John Ford movies?  I think I'll pay the show that great compliment.  Watching Emergency! again, I really wasn't pulled in by the death defying rescues, but rather enjoyed the show for a different reason. 

The show, like all other Mark VII Limited dramas were formulaic, and limited in realism.  I do believe that Jack Webb was probably the first to try to bring a type of reality television to American audiences.  Funny thing is, as much as I enjoyed Emergency!, I couldn't remember any of the episodes from my youth.  This isn't so with Dragnet.  As dry and stoic Dragnet is, I easily remembered most of episodes some four decades later. 

I remember very little about Adam-12.  I am trying to watch them, but they are not as interesting to watch as Dragnet or Emergency!.   I don't know why, I can't just seem to get into it like I did the prior and latter.  What I have noticed is that Adam-12 is the series between the two, a little warmer than Dragnet yet not nearly as warm as Emergency!.  I remember thinking when I was a kid that Webb's casting for the Emergency paramedic duo reminded me too much of the casting for the Adam-12 patrolmen duo.  At first glimpse the Adam-12 duo Pete Malloy and Jim Reed seemed almost identical to Emergency's paramedics Roy DeSoto and John Gage.  Was it just me that thought that? 

There was a cookie cutter means in which all of Jack Webb's productions were made.  They were all shot quickly and in like fashion.  I thought it humorous that Emergency! partners seemed to be clones of Adam-12's partners.  But as Emergency! developed, Roy DeSoto and John Gage took on their own identity and unique relationship.  I read where both actors, Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth, in real life became life long friends from their working together for seven years together as DeSoto and Gage.

Before Emergency! I'd never heard of a paramedic or an EMT.  The show spawned national interest in the idea, rescue squads started popping up all over the place thanks to that particular show.  Another thing I liked about the show is that several of the firemen on Emergency! were actually firemen.  These moonlighters turned out to be pretty good actors.  I really didn't know if I was going to enjoy the show like I had when I was a teenager.  It took me a while to actually get around to watching Season 1, Episode 1 on Netflix.  Once I started I didn't stop.  It was fun revisiting the Emergency!
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