The Wedsworth-Townsend Act

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Also known as "The Wedworth-Townsend Act"
Genre Drama
Created by R.A. Cinader
Harold Jack Bloom
Directed by Jack Webb
Starring Robert Fuller
Julie London
Bobby Troup
Randolph Mantooth
Kevin Tighe
Opening theme Nelson Riddle
Composer(s) Nelson Riddle
Billy May
Country of origin USA
Executive producer(s) Jack Webb
Producer(s) R.A. Cinader
Original release January 15, 1972; 45 years ago (1972-01-15)

The Wedsworth-Townsend Act (sic) is the pilot episode for the TV series Emergency!, a made-for-TV movie, broadcast on NBC on January 15, 1972 (45 years ago) (1972-01-15). The primary cast from the pilot also starred in the TV series for the entire run through 1977.[citation needed]

The title, despite the possibly deliberate misspelling of "Wedworth", refers to the Wedworth-Townsend Paramedic Act of the California State Legislature, which that legislature passed and which the then State Governor Ronald Reagan signed into law on July 14, 1970 (46 years ago) (1970-07-14).[1][2]


After a late-night fire run, Los Angeles County Station 10 Fire & Rescue man John Gage (Randolph Mantooth), gets into a discussion with his battalion chief (Art Balinger) about joining a new program called the paramedics. At first Gage turns down the offer because he does not want to become an "ambulance attendant". But in a failed rescue, the victim dies on arrival at Rampart Hospital. Noting the word "rescue" on the vehicle's markings, Gage snorts derisively: "Rescue, hell. All we rescued was a corpse." As a result, he reconsiders his earlier reluctance and talks to someone about joining the paramedics; it is at this point that he first meets Los Angeles Fireman and future partner Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe).[citation needed]

At first Gage is still not convinced to join; while he would have the training, he would not have the authority, but DeSoto tells him of a bill before the state legislature that would commission the paramedics, meaning that if the bill had any chance of passage they would have to be ready. DeSoto further states there are presently only six qualified paramedics for the entire population of the Los Angeles area – over 612 million people. That convinces Gage to sign the application, and he begins his paramedic training in earnest at Rampart under the tutelage of ER senior doctor Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller), neurological surgeon and ER doctor Joe Early (Bobby Troup) and ER head nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London).[citation needed]

Despite his willingness to train the new paramedics, Brackett is firmly against the program itself, preferring highly skilled medical help in the field rather than "hose jockeys" running the risk of losing a life due to inexperience or ineptitude. His attitude toward the program does not go unnoticed by Gage, who passes the paramedic course and is reassigned and partnered with DeSoto at the new Station 51. With the paramedic program not yet authorized, any emergency involving injury requires Gage and DeSoto to stop at Rampart en route and pick up a nurse, namely McCall, to administer authorized medical help.[citation needed]

When Squad 51 is called out on a traffic crash involving a vehicle over a cliff with two injuries, they again pick up McCall at Rampart, but a freak occurrence at the scene renders McCall unconscious, and the paramedics are forced to call Rampart for instructions. When they tell Brackett that McCall is also unconscious, Brackett orders them not to treat the patients. But Gage, still embittered over his failure at Squad 10, insubordinates and yells into the biophone: "To hell with the orders!" With that, he shuts down the link.[citation needed]

Later at Rampart, Brackett reprimands Gage and DeSoto for their insubordination, but then compliments their job performance; the three victims were stabilized; McCall had vasovagal syncope (unconsciousness brought on by intense stress) while the other two patients, according to Dr. Early, were simple cases. Finally realizing the paramedic program does indeed work, Brackett takes an unscheduled trip to Sacramento to address the State Assembly. In his address, Brackett goes on the record stating that he is not in favor of inexperienced youngsters saving lives in the field, but also asserts his conviction that the paramedic program can save lives, and is willing to support it until a better alternative becomes available. To the relief of Brackett and Assemblyman Michael Wolski (Jack Kruschen), the bill is approved by the Assembly, sending it to the floor of the legislature, but Brackett is due back in Los Angeles before the vote that evening.[citation needed]

Back in L.A., Gage and DeSoto are dispatched on a major night call that includes police, The Salvation Army, civil defense, and the county fire department: an explosion and cave-in at a flood-control tunnel at the Alameda Diversion Complex. Gage realizes that lack of discipline could permanently end the paramedic program, but seeing all the injuries and people begging for help only exacerbates Gage's and DeSoto's collective feelings of helplessness. They eventually reach a victim with a heart condition pinned underneath a trencher; after freeing the victim they radio Rampart with their situation. When the victim's heart starts fibrillating during the EKG reading, Brackett orders them to defibrillate. DeSoto reminds Brackett of the risks, but thinking more about the patient, Brackett lies to the paramedics telling them that the legislature had already approved the Paramedic bill; he then roars at them: "Zap 'im, damn it! Zap 'im!" Reluctantly, Gage defibrillates the patient, who stabilizes after the second attempt. Brackett offers his "highest congratulations" to the "doctors" for saving the man's life.[citation needed]

At daybreak with the situation under control, as the exhausted rescue workers make their way out of the Complex, DeSoto finds a newspaper (dropped by a woman grieving over her husband killed in the disaster) folded to an article about the passing of the Paramedic bill the previous night thanks to support from Dr. Brackett. (His picture was in the article). Brackett and McCall drive out to the scene to see Gage and DeSoto in person and to compliment their performance. DeSoto and Gage return the compliment for what Brackett did:
Gage: I really don't know what to say.
Brackett: Who asked?

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our History". UCLA Center for Prehospital Care. UCLA. Retrieved 2016-09-20. 
  2. ^ Author unknown (date unknown). Origins Of California's Paramedics. Retrieved from


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