The stars at night are big and bright...

The stars at night are big and bright...
The stars at night are big and bright...

Monday, November 12, 2012


That was the callsign of  LA County Fire Station 51. The home of Emergency! This show was so cool on so many levels. It even made 1 Ton Dodge Duallys cool.

Jack Webb was the original "reality" guy. He ripped the files straight from the... well, files. Dragnet walked you thru a case step by step. Then Adam-12 took you on a patrol with the LAPD. His swansong, and arguably greatest achievement from Mark-VII Productions was following the LA County Fire department and the introduction of Paramedics to a skeptical public.

Sure, we all take EMT's as a given commodity now. But back in the early 70's it was some wild Liberal California idea to make firemen doctors. Rather than take his usual ultra-conservative approach, Jack Webb embraced the idea and strove to highlight the efforts of "Rescue Paramedics" with Producer R.A. Cinader at the helm. Not being Cops throwing people in jail and actually helping sick and injured citizens drew a wide positive response with viewers. Gage and DeSoto became instant action hero medics and an inspiration to a wave of Paramedics across the country.

Without a doubt this one program is responsible for educating the American people on the importance of Paramedics and allowed the program to expand to where it is today. Without Emergency!, EMT's wouldn't be here at the capacity they are today. Every Saturday night NBC took you into LA County Station 51 and gave you a ride along with their calls. Everyone got to see what kind of service EMT's could and need to provide nationwide. This show made that happen.

As a tribute, the actual station featured in the series (LA County 127) was renamed the Robert A. Cinader Memorial Fire Station in honor of the series producer. The series also featured LACoFD Dispatcher Sam Lanie on the radio calls on every episode.

It also featured an odd cast. Executive Producer Jack Webb first cast cowboy actor Robert Fuller as ER Chief Kelly Brackett. He then cast unknowns Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth as DeSoto and Gauge. Next he cast his ex-wife Julie London as RH Dixie McCall and her jazz pianist husband Bobby Troupe (he wrote Route 66) as Dr. Joe Early.

This show had built in drama.

Hiring your ex and her husband had to be kinda weird for Jack... but it worked. If you need further proof, ER is a direct ripoff of Emergency!. Swap Rampart for County General and you've got the same show focusing on a different aspect of the same story.

Formulaic? Yes. Does it stand up to the test of time? Absolutely. Worth watching? Without a doubt.

1 comment:

Tim said...

I'm watching it right now on Netflix. The first episode. Don't know I ever saw that episode, but I sure remember watching the show as a kid. One of my favorites. Seems pretty dated now. It is interesting though thinking about the time before when there were paramedics and how there must have been opposition to their introduction.