Fans of the pioneering TV series Emergency! probably already know that it was a spin-off of the shows Dragnet and Adam-12. Jack Webb and Robert Cinader, co-produced the show with unprecedented attention to detail and realism to usher in a bold new genre of municipal services based TV shows.
NBC would follow the pattern laid out here with later popular offerings like Law & Order and Chicago Fire. Not only was Emergency! entertaining, but it was also borderline educational.
The excellent script was supported by a truly superb cast. Roy DeSoto and John Gage, played by Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth respectively, made up the Station 51 dynamic duo. Then we had Dr. Kelly Brackett – played by Robert Fuller – and Dixie McCall, the lovely nurse played by Julie London, to round out the cast that was packed for of heroes and heartthrobs that grabbed audiences by the stethoscopes and kept us coming back for more.
Emergency! was well received both by its viewers and by critics and managed to have a pretty decent run on the air that spanned 6 action-packed seasons. The story continued on even after it’s cancellation by means of 6 made-for-TV movies that took the crew up the west coast to Seattle and all the way back down to San Francisco.
Even today, the show still enjoys a thriving base of fans, but even the most committed Emergency fans will probably be shocked to learn some of the following details.
Watch the whole video to learn why producers of the show had to put a liability disclaimer in the opening credits to discourage viewers from trying to use what they learned from the show to rescue people in real-life emergency situations..
Facts Verse Presents: Emergency! Behind the Scenes Facts & Secrets
But first, make sure you hit the like button and subscribe to our channel. Tap the bell icon to turn on notifications so you never have to miss another one of our fact-filled videos.
There Were Only 12 Paramedic Units In North America When The Show First Aired
Turns out, Emergency! might have actually inadvertently saved some lives.
Back In the day, paramedic units weren’t much of a thing. The 12 units in North America weren’t going to do a lot of good seeing that most Americans were essentially hundreds of miles away from each one – unless you were lucky enough to live in LA.
Between the show’s debut in 1972 and 1987, things changed abruptly and for the better. Because of the show’s influence, 50 percent of all American residents were now within 10 minutes of an ambulance or paramedic unit.
That influx trend only continued to expand over the following years. Today nearly 100 percent of all Americans are reachable via a paramedic rescue team.
The Rescues Were All Based Upon Real-Life Events
Robert Cinader really wanted the show to have a sense of realism to it. That sort of thing was uncommon in 1970s television and he knew it would be compelling enough to draw in audiences who had never seen anything like it before. Audiences were less spoiled back in those days. Today we have been desensitized and we feel like we’ve ‘seen it all’.
Anyway, Cinader told his writing staff that he wanted all the rescues that were to be written into the show to come from real-life fire station logbooks. They didn’t have to be just from the LA area or even California for that matter, but they did have to be sourced from a genuine logbook.
Ar first, the writers were skeptical. Some even protested the order but then they got to reading some of the real fire department logs from across the US and then they suddenly understood why he wanted it.
Randolph Mantooth summed up their sentiments by saying “You couldn’t make some of this stuff!”
It turns out that reality was more entertaining than fiction.
John Travolta had his first acting credit on Emergency!
Long before he ever strutted his stuff right onto the dance floor for Saturday Night Fever, young Travolta found himself fresh on the LA scene and looking for small roles to bolster his acting portfolio. On season 2, episode two he played an unfortunate 16-year-old hiker who accidentally fell off of a cliff.
Yup, that’s Barbarino, the sweathog laying down there on that dusty ground. Don’t worry, little Johhny survives.
This particular episode is also notable for introducing another beloved character, Boot the dog.
Hey, quick question before we move on, did you ever get around to tapping the like button and subscribing to our channel
The Crew Wore Real Badges
The prop department certainly didn’t skimp when it came to conjuring up some authenticity. They provided the cast members with genuine fire department badges to give them that bona fide look.
At the end of each day of filming, the badges were all counted and collected, tucked away for safekeeping, and then redistributed the following day.
Just in case you were wondering, it’s not illegal for a civilian to possess one of these badges as long as they aren’t actively trying to impersonate a rescue worker, firefighter, or police officer. — and now you know!
There Was An Emergency! Cartoon As Well
You might be a bit surprised that the show that was most noteworthy for its striking realism spawned a rather unrealistic Saturday morning cartoon show titled Emergency+4.
The show was all over the place and lacked much of the authenticity that its inspiration was praised for. For example, in the opening credits, Roy DeSoto is seen sliding down a fire pole. That might not be seen as odd until you realize that the firehouse is only 1 story tall.
Oh yeah, and there was an anthropomorphized monkey as well. – That was weird…
The +4 suffix was a reference to the ambulance that lugged this motley crew of children and their animal companions around while DeSoto and Gage handled the real work. The show did benefit by the fact that Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe actually provided the voices for their cartoon characters though, otherwise, it just seemed like a peculiar Scooby-Doo knockoff sponsored by the fire department.
There Was A Spin-Off Show In The Works With Mark Harmon Entitled ‘905 – Wild’
Season fours episode ‘905 – Wild’ was actually a backdoor pilot for a spin-off show that was going to focus on the lives and cases of 2 LA county animal control officers played by the likes of Mark Harmon and Albert Popwell.
The pilot tanked though and the network decided to not greenlight it after audiences responded very coldly to the concept.
Harmon certainly didn’t suffer much from not getting the role because he was soon cast on a very similar, albeit short-lived, series called 240-Robert which was the creation of Rick Rosner – the man behind ChiPs.
There Was A Subtle CHiPs Crossover Cameo
It was one of those rare blink-and-you-might-miss-it moments that tied together the two shows.
In Chips, which was all about a motorcycle patrol, you can clearly see Squad 51 respond on the episode “Cry Wolf” from season one.
In season 2 on the episode entitled “MAIT Team” both Squad 51 and Engine 51 can be seen for a brief moment at the scene of a horrifying pile-up accident.
The Squad made one last cameo in season three on the episode “Hot Wheels”
In addition to this crossover, Gage and DeSoto sometimes crossed paths with Adam-12 officers Reed and Malloy. Jack Webb loved doing mash-ups and throwing in little visual easter eggs in like that to see if fans of the series were paying attention.
And yes Jack, we were paying attention. Thanks for checking
The Show Needed A Disclaimer
During the early days of the show’s run, there were many reports of lives being saved by people seeing various emergency medical procedures done on-screen and then making use of them in real-world emergency situations. This might sound like a wonderful thing, but sometimes people can improperly apply a medical technique and make matters much worse for the unlucky recipient as well as the actual medical personnel that have to clean up after the mess.
Producers eventually added the disclaimer to the credits that all medical techniques demonstrated on the show should only be performed by people with formal training to do so.
They further highlighted this warning in the episode “Grateful” which features squad 51 dealing with a patient in a serious condition that was made worse by an amateur responder incorrectly performing a precordial thump. The man is seriously reprimanded for his well-intentioned, yet dangerous attempt at helping.
There Is An Actual Station 51 Now
The Los Angeles Country Fire Department station 127 building in Carson, California served as a backdrop for the fictional Station 51 on EMERGENCY!
At the time of filming, there was no actual station 51, so the county didn’t mind if Universal Television used it in their series. There had been one in the past, but it was shut down in the 1960s.
In 1995, however, Universal Studios in Universal City, California got big enough that it required its own personal fire department. So what better name than Station 51, in honor of Emergency, could they have given the new fire station?
Randolph Mantooth Was Offered A Real Firefighting Job
Battalion Chief Jim Page, who is considered by many to be the father of modern emergency medical services served as a consultant for the show. He was also the character inspiration for John Gage.
After the show wrapped up after its 6th season, Jim offered Randolph the opportunity to take up some training and become an actual firefighter for the Los Angeles County Fire department.
It was a tempting offer, and one that Mantooth didn’t take lightly, but after much consideration he turned down the offer.
Well, that wraps up yet another in-depth look at some of the hidden secrets tucked away in one of your favorite classic TV shows.
Emergency! certainly was something special. It not only gave birth to a new genre of television, but it did so in a remarkably well-executed way.
Now it’s that special time, once again to hear from you – our lovely viewers at home.
If you were in an emergency situation, would you trust Squad 51 to come to your rescue or would you rather take your chances with anyone else? Tell us what you think and why in the comments section.
And before you start watching something else, show us a little support by hitting the like button and subscribing to our channel. If you tap the bell icon, you can turn on notifications and be alerted whenever we post another one of our videos.