In a season scheduled to be its last, fans actually benefited by the writers’ strike, as ER was brought back for a fifteenth season. Unfortunately the fourteenth season, released on DVD from Warner Home Video on January 11th, 2011, is extremely uneven in its storytelling. Luckily the performances of the actors, both guest and regular, make this season worth watching.Most notable of the excellent performances by a guest is that of Stanley Tucci as Dr. Daniel Moretti whose subtle brilliance as the new head honcho brings a sense of class to the show from his appearance in the season opener: "The War Comes Home". Despite the fine performance of Tucci, the impact of a new chief on the ER has simply been seen too many times before, and thus the first few episodes of season fourteen seem disappointingly familiar. Like many of the storylines throughout the season, that of the restrained Dr. Moretti takes an abrupt turn as writers struggle to get rid of someone who had not signed on for a fifteenth season. The same can be said for many relationships throughout the season, as storylines begin and end awkwardly.
In anticipation of the end of the series, the cast of regulars had been whittled down to just six (Parminder Nagra as Dr. Neela Rasgotra, Linda Cardellini as Nurse Sam Taggart, Scott Grimes as Dr. Archie Morris, John Stamos as Dr. Tony Gates, Maura Tierney as Dr. Abby Lockhart, and Mekhi Phifer as Dr. Greg Pratt) and that allows for not only the audience to truly appreciate those that are there, but also for each of the talented actors to be given plenty of time to shine. Tierney takes full advantage of the opportunity as Abby runs the gambit of trials and tribulations throughout the entire season. One could only hope that Abby would find happiness in season fifteen, because there is not much to be had here.Season fourteen includes the 300th episode which is celebrated with a unique episode in which Dr. Morris wagers three hundred dollars that the ER can treat 300 patients in one 24-hour period. This storyline is wrought with forced comedy that fails to payoff. Other disappointments in this numerically historic episode include a return appearance by former regular Goran Visnjic as Dr. Lukka Kovac and a guest appearance by legendary actor turned infomercial host Peter Fonda. Fonda’s character is dealing with a terminally ill wife and an introduction to a son with Downs Syndrome that he had given up at birth. Visnjic and Fonda never share any screen time in this episode but still manage to compete for the most stoic and one-dimensional performance. Episode 300 does include a pleasant but far too brief look back and some of the more memorable patients that have stopped in to the ER.
Other guest appearances in season fourteen include: Charlotte Rae, Eddie Mekka, Hal Holbrook, Patrick Cassidy, Jesse Borrego, Howard Hesseman, and Steve Buscemi who appears in the final episode of the season. Buscemi works well with what he is given, but the cliffhanger to ponder over the course of the summer, like most of season fourteen, is far too contrived.The bonus features include ER at 300: Highlights from the ER 300th Episode Tribute at the Paley Center for Media featuring cast and crew, Gag Reel, Outpatient Outtakes: Unaired Scenes, and Subtitles. Like in previous season releases, the gag reels seem staged and simply aren’t enjoyable to watch. Even more disappointing is the tribute which is poorly edited and will leave you wondering why they didn’t give us the whole event. The reasons for exclusion of the Outpatient Outtakes: Unaired Scenes will be obvious when you watch them.
Recommendation: This release has potential to irritate the most loyal of fans for many reasons, the least of which is that Warner Home Video changed the size of the packaging from the previous thirteen releases. Thanks for ruining the uniformity of the collection guys. The episodes are a mixed bag full of good performances lost in poor storytelling.Season fourteen is worth buying for the performances and for the true fan that needs to complete the collection and does not care how it looks on the shelf.