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ER - The Complete Eighth Season - dramatic television series DVD review
ER -
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Actors: Anthony Edwards, Noah Wyle, Laura Innes, Maura Tierney, Goran Visnjic
Creator: Michael Crichton   Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD release: 22 January 2008   Runtime: 981 minutes
(6 discs)
Format: Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Features: Audio tracks (Dolby Stereo 2.0 - English), Subtitles (English), Gag Reel, Deleted Scenes

On the heels of a tremendous seventh season highlighted by Sally Field's guest-starring role, the eighth season of ER comes along. Though there are fresh faces and the return of an old one, it's really the end of an era in terms of the last vestiges of the original cast whom the show's fans fell in love with when the series first hit the air back in 1994.

Season eight has many interesting storylines that feature nearly every member of the cast. In the first four episodes of the twenty-two there are a few juicy tidbits, but it's really the set-up for major changes in the show. Dr. Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) is back from her trip from last season. Her conflict with Dr. Romano is ever-present and is thrown for a loop when Dr. Malucci (Erik Palladino) and Jing-Mei Chen (Ming-Na) have a miscommunication that leads to a fatal error. This storyline comes to a head in episode four when Malucci is fired and Chen decides to leave rather than deal with the situation. This also marks the return of Dr. Susan Lewis, who quickly plunges back into the unpredictable life in the emergency room. Also around this time, the fourteen-year-old daughter of Dr. Greene, Rachel (Yvonne Zima), shows up unexpectedly.

Over the next seven episodes are some more strongly acted and tightly written shows. In a lesser storyline, Dr. John Carter (Noah Wyle) deals with the death of his grandfather, his grandmother's denial of illness, his father's divorce from his mother, and the incredible fact that the man who stabbed him and killed Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) was out on early parole. Carter also finally confronts his mother on the issue of his severe injury and subsequent drug addiction.

Dr. Benton (Eriq Lasalle) has some major conflicts of his own. His ex-wife dies tragically in an accident, which leaves his son, Reese, in a strange predicament. Benton tries to remedy the situation by leaving Reese with family, but it doesn't work out. Reese's stepfather, Roger McGrath (Vondie-Curtis Hall), goes to court to get full custody of the boy. Eventually Benton decides that a more stable situation for Reese is more important than his career, and this is the swan song for Eriq Lasalle. A bright young talent enters in Michael Gallant (Sharif Atkins), Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) starts to have trouble with Rachel and his wife, Dr. Corday (Alex Kingston), is dealing with patients dying from post-op complications.

Though there are plenty of strong self-contained episodes, like the one where Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) deals with an abusive husband and pays the consequences, and story arcs like Weaver dating firefighter Sandy Lopez, the focus of this part of the season is on Dr. Greene and his family. In season seven, Marc had a brain tumor removed. He dodged that bullet then, but it's come back, and this time there isn't much he can do. Though there is another new arrival in Dr. Pratt (Mekhi Phifer), and Marc does his best to mentor him, he is unable to continue working. He decides to forego any further chemo treatment in order to spend more quality time with Rachel and live out his days peacefully. We learn this in a non-linear fashion, making the storyline all the more powerful. In episode twenty, entitled "The Letter," the staff at County General get a fax from Marc, which John Carter reads out loud to them. It is followed up by another one from Corday letting them know he has died. It's in the following episode, twenty-one, that we watch Marc try to tie up loose ends with Rachel and, ultimately, die (an episode that really tugs at the heart). But the season doesn't end with his death; John Carter is now a senior doctor, and he faces his first major crisis when two children come in with what seems like smallpox. The whole hospital is quarantined to prevent an outbreak.

A lot happens this season - old faces gone, new faces joining the team. ER set a high standard of excellence in broadcast television with a vast amount of quality drama that could be taken seriously because the characters were believable, flawed, and portrayed by some incredible actors. The combination of skillful direction, great writing, and powerful performances is what makes the show so memorable, and this season is just as great as the seven prior.
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reviewed by Bobby Blades
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