ER: The Complete Twelfth Season

America's Next Top Model

On DVD: 
Tuesday, March 29, 2005

ER was limping toward the end of its impressive run in its twelfth season, originally airing in 2005-6.  Ratings and quality had dipped, but it kept chugging along, adding new characters and expanding its scope to include an arc in Africa and bringing back long-time favorite Noah Wyle’s Dr. John Carter.

Recurring storylines in season 12 include Kovac’s love life as his relationship with Sam deteriorates and he rekindles a flame with Abby, Sam’s finances are in turmoil and her imprisoned ex returns to her life, Gallant returns to Neela from Iraq, Neela has to decide if she wants to become a surgeon, and Pratt begins to know his father and brother.  Unfortunately, the best they can muster up for Ray is having him try to balance medicine with a desire to be a rock starand Archie Morris is mostly used for comic relief.  There is a detour to Darfur, and while I applaud the show’s willingness to portray the horrors there, those episodes don’t fit with the rest of the season and they break up the show’s flow.  Overall, melodrama and stagnation outweigh any actual drama, and despite some highlights, the season falls mostly flat.

New characters include Dr. Victor Clemente, a hot-blooded attending (Susan Lewis's replacement) played with gusto by John Leguizamo and dictatorial nurse manager Eve Peyton, portrayed by the fabulous and underused Kristen Johnston.  John Stamos guest stars as paramedic/med student Tony Gates, a role he would play regularly in later seasons, and Sara Gilbert reprises her role as an intern.  Sherry Stringfield (Dr. Susan Lewis) leaves Cook County General again early in the season.  While the new characters are fairly interesting, this season of ER suffers from an extreme case of cast bloat.  With so many characters, the plot bounces from arc to arc without devoting enough time to let us get invested in any one, and some characters are shunted to the sidelines for episodes on end.

ER has always been able to attract A list guest stars and season 12 is no exception.  James Woods was nominated for an Emmy for his unflinching portrayal of ALS-afflicted Dr. Nate Lennox in the poignant but tough to watch episode “Body & Soul.”  Danny Glover returns as Dr. Gallant’s father, and Shohreh Agdashloo is excellent as the mother of a stabbing victim in “Lost in America.”

While there are deleted scenes for most episodes (called Outpatient Outtakes here), there are no actual bonus features, which is disappointing.  The set looks fabulous, though.  The video definition is excellent, showing off the top-notch production values, and the African episodes look particularly good.  The audio is fine with decent balance but there is little in the way of surround sound.

If you’re a fan who stuck with ER through its run or are intent on collecting the entire series, I’m sure you’ll want to add season 12 to your collection, but if you’re a more casual fan, this is probably a rental or a miss for you.  Admittedly, even a weak season of ER is better than many network dramas, but this is still a weak, mostly boring season.


Episode List:
1. Canon City
2. Nobody’s Baby
3. Man with no Name
4. Blame it on the Rain
5. Wake Up
6. Dream House
7. The Human Shield
8. Two Ships
9. I Do
10. All About Christmas Eve
11. If Not Now
12. Split Decisions
13. Body and Soul
14. Quintessence of Dust
15. Darfur
16. Out on a Limb
17. Lost in America
18. Strange Bedfellows
19. No Place to Hide
20. There are No Angels Here
21. The Gallant Hero & the Tragic Victor
22. 21 Guns

Review by Michelle St. James