Synopsis of TV Show
“Engine 51 responding!”
No question about it, producer Jack Webb liked to dramatize heroic civil servants. With Dragnet and Adam-12 already under his belt, this early pioneer of action programming with a reality bent turned his focus from cops to paramedics—and he did it at a time when plenty of folks weren’t even sure what a “paramedic” was. The documentary-esqe feel that Webb was known for in his cop shows carried over into his 1972 Emergency!, and men in uniform, once more, had a venue for flexing muscles and saving the various city patrons in need of some savin’.
A two-hour pilot movie was made in 1971, and when that was well received, the series began in earnest. Squad 51 was a part of Los Angeles County’s fire department paramedical rescue service, and when they had to, 51’s firemen/paramedic/hunks Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto took their charges to the ER at Rampart Hospital. There, the white-jacketed Dr. Morton, Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early (played by erstwhile jazz man Bobby Troupe, who wrote the song “Route 66” incidentally) and Head Nurse Dixie McCall (played by Julie London, Troupe’s real-life wife and the ex-Mrs. Jack Webb) were ready for anything. Oh, to be in such competent and good-looking hands.
There were fires to put out, mouth-to-mouth resuscitations to administer, and hordes of people (and the occasional cat) to save from tall trees and power lines—the show was notorious for storylines with people getting into trouble in high places. And in between all of that, of course, there was still time for comedy, which any television show is woe to neglect.
Emergency! engaged audiences on Saturday nights for years—kids adored it, which was interesting because it wasn’t necessarily aimed at them, and adults had fireman fantasies of their own (of both the ‘I want to be just like them’ and the ‘I want to be saved by them’ variety). Thanks in part to the show, CPR and First Aid classes sprouted up in neighborhoods previously devoid of them, fire rescue knowledge grew, and plenty of emulators signed up as volunteer firemen—not bad for a Saturday night TV diversion.
The show ended in 1978 with a two-hour episode that found Gage and DeSoto both promoted to Captains. Special two-hour made-for-TV movies followed, as did an animated Saturday morning series, Emergency + 4.
Release History of Prime Time Show1/22/72 - 9/3/77 NBC
TV Sub Categoriesaction/adventure
TV CastDr. Kelly Brackett Robert Fuller
Nurse Dixie McCall Julie London
Dr. Joe Early Bobby Troup
Paramedic Roy DeSoto Kevin Tighe
Paramedic John Gage Randolph Mantooth
Dr. Morton Ron Pinkard
Captain Stanley (1973-77) Michael Norell
Fireman Chet Kelly (1973-77) Tim Donnelly
Fireman Lopez (1973-77) Marco Lopez
Fireman Stoker (1973-77) Mike Stoker
Officer Vince (1976-77) Vince Howard