Anyone: A Fan’s Review of the Classic Television Series “Emergency!”
It was a typical afternoon; pita pizzas in our oven, the sky outside growing dusky, and us four kids gathered in our den to soak up our week-daily episode of Emergency!. Since the fateful day some months before, when our dad first introduced us to this seventies’ TV series about the heroic work of firefighter paramedics, our fanhood had accelerated full-throttle.
Emergency! had already added greatly to our library of quotes, pictures, story inspirations (some of my inklings now included firemen and/or paramedics), musical themes to whistle, and eventually would go to theme my older sister’s eighteenth birthday bash and be the inspiration for our blog title.
But on this particular afternoon, we were still just in the infant stages. We were just then watching the second season for the first time, and had come around to “Saddled.” Most of the episode had run its well-written course, a conglomeration of heroism and humor, and it was getting around to the final big rescue: a schoolbus full of children and their driver had crashed through a guardrail above a hill, rolling to totter on a ridge halfway down.
So, around 4:40 pm our time, Roy DeSoto, helmeted and gloved, drops down through a broken window on the upturned side of the bus.
He finds a crowd of children, all kept calm by one level-headed boy, with just a couple of broken bones between all of them. “Please help Sister Barbara,” the boy asks. “She’s hurt real bad.”
So the red-headed Irishman, the wonderful, married, dry-witted counterbalance to Johnny’s endearing dramatics, reassures the kids and heads for the front of the bus, to be joined by his younger partner a few minutes later.
Pinned beneath the twisted dashboard is a young nun.
“Rampart Emergency, this is Squad 51,” and so on. Internal injuries and a prolonged period of untangling her from the bus’s wreckage are enough to keep us riveted.
And then Sister Barbara, eyes watering from her intense suffering, mouth trembling, looks at Roy, who has been gently reassuring her.
“My purse,” she asks.
Both the firemen, worn out from watching her suffer and from their efforts to dig her out as the children were evacuated, move to look around and locate the purse.
“Inside, there’s a rosary.”
Roy looks through the purse and gives the rosary to Johnny, who puts it in Sister Barbara’s hand.
“And there’s a prayerbook there, with a prayer pasted in the front,” she continues, and then looks at Roy. “Would you read it for me?”
Roy hesitates. “I’m not a Catholic.”
Sister Barbara just smiles. “I don’t think God would mind.” Her face fills with intensity. “Please.”
Roy glances at Johnny as he opens the prayerbook. There is none of the trademark banter, annoyance, or contention in their shared look. The moment is filled with solemn, holy realness—the reality of death, of human need, and of God.
And so, at an emotional pinnacle of a widely popular seventies’ TV show, Roy DeSoto read aloud the Memorare.
It was an incredible moment because the show that we already admired so much had been touched by Heaven, and we knew it. Within the story, God had found an open connection, if ever so briefly, with the lives of Roy DeSoto and Johnny Gage. Under the Virgin Mary’s eyes, Johnny had held a rosary, and Roy had read the Memorare, praying to his Mother. And whether or not they knew it, they had both been seen and heard by the God of all creation; the same God Who desperately loves the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and people of other or no religion at all, the people that He alone created.
For those of us who were looking, God had revealed Himself in the chronicles of Station 51 and Rampart General. He had given the writers the grace to write it, and the actors to nail acting it, whether they knew it or not. Each of them were children dear to His Heart, and He used even this small way to show His love through their lives.
That was the day when Emergency! proved it had more to offer than just well-crafted humor, characters, and drama. It had courage.
So they finally get Sister Barbara out of the bus and into Rampart, and at the hospital a much-touched Roy admits to Head Nurse Dixie McCall, “I’m not very religious, but I’ve got a hunch that the doctors are going to get some help with Sister Barbara.”
While this episode probably ranks as the most awesome instance I’ve seen, there are several others containing prayer and mentions of God. The theme that there’s a place where medicine stops and God takes over is a repeated one at Rampart.
This Presence of God in the story is enough to carry Emergency!‘s value much higher than it could possibly be if it were just a well-written TV show. However brief, however tiny the moments, it serves as a shrine of the Kingdom of God in this world, shedding a positive light on faith; whether it is Dr. Kell Brackett encouraging worried parents to pray, Dixie reminding a control-stressed Kell that he isn’t God, Roy and Johnny being asked to pray for an injured little girl, or Sister Barbara and her rosary. Even if only in its small ways, this show fulfills this truest potential of every story, and in doing so, makes me very proud to be a fan.
And even though it’s probably doubtful that all of the screenwriters, directors, and actors on set were Catholics, it seems that when it came to finding one of His gentle ways of reaching out to us, God didn’t mind using them at all.
Clare-Therese is a Catholic teenager and homeschool student from Alabama, with a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She enjoys multiple forms of creative writing, including poetry, short stories, novels, and articles, and she and her sister, Mary-Faustina, also run a joint blog chronicling their adventures and musings called The Best Thing Since D5W. Clare-Therese is also the blessed daughter of the two best parents on earth and sister of the three awesomest siblings ever, who still love her despite her taxing habits of over-complicating things that should be simple, knocking over cups of ice water she leaves on the floor, choosing episodes of two of her favorite TV shows (the old cop show Adam-12 and old firefighter show Emergency!) for her family movie turns instead of actual movies, and waiting until the final days of graphic design to finish her submissions for The Fellowship of The King, which she co-founded.