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ER: Season 6
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ER: The Complete Sixth Season (DVD)
ER's sixth season was one of transition, bidding farewell to an original character and welcoming several new ones. After watching Doug Ross (George Clooney) leave in the previous season, Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) is left on her own, pregnant with twins. When Robert "Rocket" Romano (Paul McCrane) makes a bid to run the whole hospital, Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) and Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) make plans to take a stand against him. Weaver, however, double-crosses Greene and winds up getting to run the ER. Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle) is locked up in a battle over his deaf son, Jeanie Boulet (Gloria Reubens) hopes to adopt an HIV-positive child, and John Carter (Noah Wyle) heats things up with his ex-cousin-in-law (Rebecca De Mornay). When Hathaway goes into labor on Thanksgiving, she's cared for by a perky OB nurse named Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney). But Lockhart is also a third-year medical student, and she later turns up in the ER as part of her rotation. One of her first encounters is with new attending Luka Kovacs (Goran Visnjic), of whom she says, "Well, we never had doctors like that in OB... Is he single?" And on her memorable first day, she gets vomited on and bitten; she plays espionage on a scheming mother, and she misdiagnoses a patient. Former medical student Deb Chen, now known as Jing-Mei (Ming-Na), returns as a resident, Alan Alda arrives as new attending Gabe Lawrence, and "Dr. Dave" Malucci (Erik Palladino), Dr. Cleo Finch (Michael Michele), and desk clerk Frank (Troy Evans) also join the cast.
As usual, tensions ran high. Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston) crosses the line by coercing a confession out of a suspected rapist (Lawrence Monoson), which would haunt her all season. Then during one chaotic shift, it seems almost trivial that Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) and Carter give a painful spinal tap to a patient named Paul Sobricki (David Krumholtz) whom they later find is schizophrenic. But at the end of the shift, while the staff is celebrating Valentine's Day, events unfold into the most harrowing scene in the history of the series, and one of the most gut-wrenching in the history of television drama. Guest stars include Broadway actor John Cullum as Green's father, Judy Parfitt as Corday's mother, Martha Plimpton as a pregnant waitress, The X-Files' Mitch Pileggi as a man with Huntington's disease, and Shia LeBeouf and Dakota Fanning as young patients with multiple sclerosis and leukemia, respectively. As with most ER DVDs, the sixth season has numerous deleted scenes, including one of Lucy's first encounter with Sobricki. --David Horiuchi
- 22 episodes on six discs
- Deleted scenes
- Gag reel
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Heading the list of attractions is several terrific story arcs. The first is the three episode appearance of Alan Alda as a new hire as chief of the ER. At first, it is clear he is expert, if a bit old fashioned. He plays the role quite differently from his Hawkeye Pierce persona. (I almost missed the Hawkeye humor. Would it have been really so bad to name him "Pierce") I won't spoil the reason he left after 3 episodes. Far more tense is a story arc featuring "Numb3rs" star, David Krumholtz, as a psychotic patient. The events of his stay change the direction of the show for over a season.
Hospital politics plays a big part early in the season, which makes Paul McCrane's role more important, as the doctor everyone loves to hate. I can say with some safety that following seasons sustain the overall quality, but none seem to reach the heights of this season, especially with other guest stars, John Cullum and Francis Sternhagen, whose parts wind down after this season.
If you happen to see this review before you buy any ER season, this is the one to try if you just want to sample the show.
Before I comment on that episode, we see some new additions to the cast of ER. Goran Visnijic debuts as Dr. Kovac. I liked him much better in these earlier seasons before they made him a carbon copy of Doug Ross when he was a womanizer.
Michael Michele comes aboard as Dr. Cleo Finch, the new Attending Pediatric physician. Finch is a good doctor who really cares about her patients, and Michele does a great job of demonstrating this.
Erik Palladino is a new, young ER resident, Dr. Dave Malucci. Malucci is the gung-ho doctor who doesn't have much of a bedside manner, but who is over-eager for the most difficult cases. Malucci's impulsiveness tends to land him in hot water, especially with Dr. Weaver.
Ming-Na also makes her return here as Dr. "Deb" Chen. I really liked her in Season 1 of ER, and I was thrilled when she came back. She was always a good counterpart for Carter, as the two always seemed to be in competition with each other.
Season 6 also has the first appearance of Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) who is doing a rotation as an OBGYN nurse before beginning her rotation down in the ER.
Season 6 also has one of the great guest appearances by Alan Alda playing Dr. Gabriel Lawrence. Dr. Lawrence was the doctor who trained Kerry Weaver, and when a medical condition arises in Dr. Lawrence, Weaver has a difficult time facing her mentor and friend. There is a great scene between these two characters during his final appearance that is touching.
The season is a good one, and the acting talents of Noah Wyle are really put to the test, especially in the episodes that follow after "All in the Family" when Carter tries to deal with his guilt as well as the trauma that he suffers. Wyle was always a strong actor and played Carter with an almost innocent quality. Perhaps this is truly the first time that we see Carter with a loss of that innocence.
This season also sees the exit of the third member of the original cast. One of the small problems in this season is that, at times, you have too many cast members and too little screen time. At one point, there are twelve regular cast members during the course of this season. There simply isn't enough time to really showcase them all, especially the new additions to the cast.
SPOILER ALERT BELOW
Now, on to the episode of "All in the Family." I still recall vividly the first time I saw this episode when it aired. It was unlike anything I'd seen on television before. It was so powerful and poignant, that even seeing it again moves me inexplicably.
Dr. Carter and Lucy Knight have just been brutally stabbed by a psych patient. This occurs at the very end of the previous episode. So, imagine waiting an entire week to find out what happens next! This was one of the biggest cliff-hangers that I can remember, and everyone made sure they were available to watch this episode to find out what was going to happen to Carter and Lucy. Very few people foresaw what transpired.
The entire ER springs to action when Dr. Weaver discovers them on the floor in the trauma room lying in pools of blood. There's nothing like a team coming together for a single purpose, especially when that purpose is dire. There is something especially powerful in such actions.
Benton is nearly out of control when he discovers that Carter has been injured. Perhaps for the first time in the series, we really see and understand how the usually emotionally cold Dr. Benton feels about Carter. It's on his face and in his actions. As Benton tries to assure Carter that he will be all right, Carter says in a cracking voice, "I'm glad it's you," when he realizes that Benton is going to operate on him.
Equally strong is Dr. Corday and Dr. Romano working feverishly to save Lucy's life. Dr. Romano, who seems to care about no one at all, can't even hide his anger, frustration, and grief when it's clear that Lucy can't be saved. In many ways, Romano is the doctor who speaks for the audience. Seeing this episode for the first time, it was unbelievable that Lucy was dead. It wasn't often that a major character was killed in an on-going series, and so Romano expresses his anger and disbelief for us, and he does it well as he sends surgical instruments flying across the room.
Just when you think that ER can no longer surprise you, they came up with this episode. Word has it that Kellie Martin no longer felt comfortable being on the show as her own real-life sister was a traumatic victim of lupus.
You have to credit the writers for coming up with this episode. Very few, if any, characters up to this point in television history have had such a powerful and heart-wrenching exit as Kellie's character here on ER. I recall the following Friday everyone talking about it.
There have been previous events in ER that were terrific episodes, and there were even a couple more that would follow after Season 6, but "All in the Family" is still the premiere ER episode that truly defines the pinnacle of a great drama series.