I recently rediscovered one of my all-time favourite TV shows, Emergency! and everyone involved with creating it deserves a thank you. The show debuted 1972, ran for over 6 seasons, and helped to popularize the concepts of EMS and paramedics in American society. There are many more reasons why Emergency! deserves a thank you . Here are just a few.
Emergency! Inspired Me as a Boy
I’ve loved Emergency! ever since I was a kid. In those days I would watch with my dad, often falling asleep on the floor before the end credits. My dad would wake me up for big rescues, especially if the rescue involved the firefighters and paramedics of LA County’s Station 51 using a foam machine to put out a fire.
Johnny Gage: None Greater!
As a kid, Johnny Cage was bigger than Evel Knievel and The Six Million Dollar Man combined. In gym class, I was part of Squad 5 for running relays and stuff. We went on strike and refused to participate until we were recognized as Squad 51.
Randolph Mantooth portrayed Paramedic Gage, and he still does work as a speaker at Fire Service and EMS Conferences and Special Events. How great is that?
Emergency! Provides Comfort and Allows Sleep
My dad used to call TV “The greatest sleeping pill ever created”. Once upon a time, before reality TV, it really was. So instead of hacks and quacks and booze, I’ve been using classic TV shows as sleeping aids. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, whatsoever. Faintly hearing Hawkeye Pierce and Johnny Gage comforts me. The sound of their voices lowers my stress level and blood pressure. Emergency! and M*A*S*H rescued me from sleepless nights and rescue me from insanity.
If This Was a Real Emergency…
Part of the success of Emergency! and why it has such longevity is because it was REAL. The rescues were taken from fire logs, some of the firefighters were real-life firefighters, the actors portraying paramedics had some paramedic training, and Jim Page, the show’s technical adviser, was one “the father of the paramedic program in LA”.
Australia to the Rescue!
Anyway, shout out to my man Mahk in Australia. I was talking to him about an episode of Emergency! I had just watched and assumed he knew the show. He thought I was referring to COPS or something. Needless to say, introducing the show to someone on the other side of the world during a pandemic was an opportunity to remember all the fantastic nuances of the ground-breaking TV show.
It was Season 5, Episode 1, The Stewardess. Here is how I summed it up to my man from down under:
Watching an Emergency! Heart attack on a plane, epilepsy, this one is a goodie-me
6 minutes left in the episode and a solvent factory just caught fire. Killer episode
That exchange caused the Phoenix to rise again, so to speak.
Music Soothes the Savage Beast
Some very talented people contributed to the success of Emergency! At least two cast members were accomplished musicians, namely Julie London (Nurse Dixie McCall), and her real-life husband, Bobby Troup (Dr. Joe Early). Check out Julie’s version of Cry Me a River, if you don’t believe me.
Over 70 Years of Route 66
What’s more, Bobby Troup wrote the iconic song Route 66, a song that is essentially a travelogue of a highway that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. You can see him performing it here. It’s been covered countless times, here a few that stand out for me:
- Nat “King” Cole (original version, 1946)
- Rolling Stones (1964, I thought Route 66 was a Stones original for a long time!)
- Sammy Davis Jr. (it was like, 1965, babe)
- Depeche Mode (1987, b-side of Behind the Wheel)
- Buckwheat Zydeco (1990)
- Yo la Tengo (The pride of Hoboken, somewhere between 1996 and 2003)
- Asleep at the Wheel (2013)
- Athira (2017)
Somewhere in Season 5, Dr. Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller) tries to get through to a non-responding child by urgently asking “Tommy can you hear me!?”, an obvious wink to The Who’s rock opera Tommy. The people behind Emergency! were music fans.
I Could Go on and on about Emergency!
I could mention how the locker room chat was far more authentic than “grab her by the…” and that firefighter Chet Kelly’s line “cheatin’s easier, Gage” was an inside joke between my wife and me, how Emergency! was progressive and had a Black doctor played by Ron Pickard a decade or more before Denzel showed up on St. Elsewhere and…
Thanks for Decades of “Rescues”, Emergency!
So please just consider this another entry in my thank you series. Thank you to everyone involved with Emergency! for improving my quality of life for decades. Literally.