Back in the 70s, the residents of the City of Angels could rest a little easier knowing that paramedics Gage and DeSoto were on the job. And viewers across the country tuned in each week to watch them dutifully, and often heroically, come to the assistance of injured citizens in the hit television show, Emergency!

Dragnet star, Jack Webb, together with Robert A. Cinader, first created the police drama Adam 12 in 1968. Following its resounding success, they turned to another group of civil servants in 1972, Los Angeles firefighters, and chronicled the daily activities of the men employed at the fictional Station 51.

The show primarily focused on two firefighter/paramedics of Station 51, John Gage and Roy DeSoto, who, each week, would come to the assistance of various victims of car accidents, home emergencies, fires, earthquakes, drug overdoses, wild animals, you name it. Any resident of Los Angeles lying on a street corner with fake blook on their forehead was certain to live another day thanks to these everyday heroes.

The firefighters stayed in close contact with Rampart General Hospital who would, without fail, instruct the pair to “administer an IV of D5W (a solution of dextrose and water)” before transporting the patient to the emergency room. Ready to take over at the hospital were an able team of medical personnel, which included Dr. Kelly Bracket, Dr. Joe Early and head nurse Dixie McCall.

Each episode generally consisted of two or three intertwining plots, one of which was usually there to provide comic relief. Real-life disasters were sometimes depicted on the show, including the 1971 Sylmar earthquake and a 1973 brush fire that took place in Palos Verdes. Another real-life aspect of the show was the driver of Engine 51. The actor that played the driver, Mike Stoker, was actually an LA County firefighter, and was therefore qualified to drive the vehicle (He retired from the Fire Department in 1996 as a Captain.)

Engine 51 was a real fire engine on loan from the LA fire department, but Squad 51, driven by Gage and DeSoto, was a replica built for the series. How accurate was it? Well, when the series concluded, it was donated to, and saw service as, part of the LAFD. It now resides in the County of Los Angeles Fire Museum. A small assortment of props used on the show even found their way to the Smithsonian Institution, on display for future generations to ponder.

Nelson Riddle composed the frenzied big-band-laden theme song of Emergency! but two of the cast members were well-known musicians in their own right. Bobby Troup, who played Dr. Joe Early was the composer of the song “Route 66” and was married in real life to co-star Julie London, who portrayed nurse Dixie McCall. London enjoyed a long musical career as a vocalist, releasing over 30 jazz and pop albums in the 50s and 60s.

Emergency! ran for 6 seasons before ending in 1979. A series of six television movies were also produced that were aired during the final two seasons and showed John and Roy traveling to Seattle and San Francisco to assist these communities with various disasters. A Saturday morning cartoon, Emergency +4 debuted in 1973, pairing the two firefighters with 4 youngsters and an assortment of animals.

Besides entertaining viewers each week, the series had perhaps a more profound impact on society than your average television show. Not only did fire departments across the country see a significant rise in their enrollment numbers thanks to the popular series, but the show educated its viewers, some of whom took what they learned from Emergency! and applied the knowledge to real-life incidents, saving lives in the process. It is also credited with an increased interest in CPR classes across the nation. For that, we owe Emergency! some well-deserved credit, for not only entertaining us each week, but also for making a positive difference.

If you loyally tuned in each week to watch the brave souls from Squad 51, we welcome all of your memories of this beloved show in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this classic series, here at Retroland.

4 Responses to “Emergency!”

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  1. Stefanie Hasel says:

    What?!? No one has commented? This was a GREAT show! My husband was a little boy when it came on and he was obsessed! My in-laws ran all over the tiny area where he was from to find all kinds of Emergency! toys for him for Christmas. ONE WEEK before Christmas, he stopped watching LOL! But truthfully, we BOTH watched when it came back on channels like TVLand. I bought him the first season DVD set, SIGNED by Randolph Mantooth.

  2. Wally says:

    EMERGENCY! IS a great show and there has not been a close “Reality” show since… every show that has been featuring police or fire or hospitals has had so much over drama in it.

    I was the only kid on the block who had a suitcase with a telephone in it.. LOL my Biophone! It inspired me to become an EMT… and on Saturday April 7, 2012 I had a SCA , (Sudden Cardiac Arrest) save with CPR in Maple Ridge BC Canada wher I live. Without the show I would have been something else in life… instead of a Medic for 25 years…

    Take a First Aid and CPR course… it can save a life!

  3. Donna McFadden says:

    What about when they missed an episode of Adam 12 just to have the Adam 12 guys show up on an actual episode?

  4. Yvette Allison says:

    I love Emergency! I watched it on Netflix, but all the episodes are not available. I’ve been receiving the DVD’s as gifts for every occasion I can! When I was younger I had the truck, men, and some of the accessories. I wish I had of kept them! I love watching these old shows!!!

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