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ER - The Complete Eleventh Season - medical drama DVD / television series DVD review
ER - THE COMPLETE ELEVENTH SEASON Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Actors: Noah Wyle, Maura Tierney, Mekhi Phifer, Goran Visnjic, Sherry Stringfield, Ming-Na
Creator: Michael Crichton   Distributor: Warner Home Video
DVD release: 14 July 2009   Runtime: 1023 minutes
(6 discs)
Format: AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital Stereo - English), Subtitles (English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Chinese, Portugese), 22 episodes, Outpatient Outtakes (unaired scenes)

Although E.R. may not be quite the powerhouse it used to be, Season Eleven (yes, eleven!) proves that an aging show can still turn out a semi-strong performance. The individual episodes still provoke strong emotional reactions while preserving the cohesive running storyline for the doctors, nurses and interns.

One might think the same old formula wouldn't work eleven seasons in. Actually, it seems to go alright, if not fantastically well. Patients present problems, interns and doctors rush to their aide, nurses flutter from one to another cleaning up problems and offering assistance as needed. The strength of ER is not in the blood and gore and frantic fixes but in the ability to make even the smallest one-time character very real and alive (well, alive until they lose too much blood, or until someone makes the wrong call.). The writers of ER have a gift for making the audience truly care about each and every case, from the extreme to the most banal.

This time, we're down a lot of the old familiar faces that began the show. That hasn't affected the cast too negatively, however. Dr. Carter, Dr. Lewis and Kerrie Weaver are still there from way back when, as well as some of the newer but now-familiar faces. New doctor Ray Barnett, veteran Nurse Chuny and newly white-coated Dr. Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney), Goran Visnjic as Dr. Luka, and the emotional Dr. Neela are some of the faces seen daily in this emergency room. They have become the real heart and soul of the place now.

After viewing the entire season back to back, a lot of it runs together in a mess of blood and emotion. One episode really stands out, however. "Time of Death" guest stars Ray Liotta, an alcoholic who has to come to terms with the multitude of mistakes he has made while dying alone with only hospital workers at his side. This episode breaks with the usual blueprint of a typical ER show. Rather than bouncing wildly around the emergency room, this one focuses almost exclusively on this one man who is facing imminent death - a death of his own slow making. It is a difficult one to watch and absorb, and I dare you not to take his pain into your own heart. It is also a chance to see Mekhi Phifer as Dr. Gregory Pratt really shine.

The personal stories of the staff are rife with conflicts but ultimately lead to only minor growth. Romance, family and paths are explored by each of them, though it comes off as much more contrived than it did perhaps in the early glory days of ER. Seeing Danny Glover come in as Dr. Pratt's father might just have made up for any artless blundering shown by the rest.

Whether it is simply an aging format for the show, writing that is not as good as previous seasons, or shortcomings of the cast, this offering of ER just doesn't quite measure up to the past. Think of Season Eleven of ER as a bridge to the bigger, better things to come. One must sometimes endure the pain of now to get to the joy of later. This wasn't an altogether terrible season - it just wasn't quite up to par with expectations of the show bearing Michael Crichton's name as creator.
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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