It's the first week of January so that means it's time for the networks to start debuting their mid-season replacements and with that, there's always bound to be at least a couple of shows about cops or fireman in there. With the show 9-1-1 we get both combined. From the winning combination of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk who have previously brought us American Horror Story, Glee, and (the now forgettable) Scream Queens comes their newest show which takes us into the lives of first responders. Set in Los Angeles each case starts off with an incoming call to a dispatcher of "9-1- 1, What's your emergency?" and then it is handled by the cast of police officers, firefighters, and paramedics who have to show up and handle whatever the situation is. The cases are inspired by real-life stories in an effort to reflect the true state of society and considering what they serve up in the Pilot there's no lack of surprises. From a woman getting choked by a snake, to a baby getting flushed down a toilet these are not the days of just getting a cat out of a tree. Did I mention a BABY flushed down a toilet?
With this being from Murphy, he comes armed with several of his usual soldiers in Angela Bassett, Connie Britton, and Kenneth Choi. Bassett plays a damn tough cop named Athena who has no problem getting in the face of one of the rookie firefighters named Buck (Oliver Stark) when he tries to keep her from saving a young girl's life. Britton plays Abby Clark, a 911 dispatcher who not only has to listen to every hysterical person in peril who calls in asking for help but also must deal with the idiocy of those that think the line is somehow a place for crank calls to amuse themselves. Choi is Howie a guy who is very level-headed in the field and oftentimes the comedy relief in the face of the absurd cases we see thus far. The glue of the group is rounded out by veteran TV actor Peter Krause who plays the much more no-nonsense Bobby Nash, the head of the firefighter unit who keeps having to deal with the loose cannon Buck. Bobby is trying to get Buck to take the job a lot more seriously but the kid thinks it's just as nonchalant as "See the fire, put out the fire, the rest is blah blah!" There always has to be the young smartass that thinks he knows how to do everything. On the surface, Buck isn't anything we haven't seen before, just a cocky, hormone filled maverick who doesn't want to play by the rules. There always needs to be that character that goes to the extreme every week but hopefully, they give him a little more dimension, so he's not just a cookie-cutter frat kid trying to be a hero.
The cases are only half of the show as we are given brief glimpses into each of their personal lives when they go home at night so we don't just see them as stereotypes in uniforms. Athena who has two children at home is dealing with the complications of a secret her husband has recently shared with her that is bound to cause some problems with raising her kids like a normal family. Bobby has addiction problems that manifested themselves while he was in the fire department many years ago and even though he is now sober, the fight to stay that way is a constant struggle. Howie's only story so far is all the women he picks up on a first responder dating site (is there such a thing?). He can't seem to keep any of them interested so he has to make up valiant stories of his adventures to keep them amused. Abby has maybe the most taxing of all the characters as she is trying to take care of her sick mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Abby is given center stage the most with her personal life as not only do we see hers first but she is used as the show's voice for both the beginning and end of the premiere episode.
9-1-1 does not have the grittiness of New York like NBC's Third Watch (1999-2005) or FX's Rescue Me (2004-2011) but it's also not the box of screwballs that NBC's Chicago Fire is with its ridiculous scenarios those characters find themselves in. The fire station on 9-1- 1 is the size of a giant warehouse that looks like you could fit the entire Rescue Me house inside of it and the kitchen looks like it was professionally designed by an interior decorator. But with this being set in the palm tree land of Los Angeles it all fits the environment as we see large sweeping shots of blue skies and extensive track housing. If you don't already know, this is what we expect from Ryan Murphy and it has his fingerprints of style all over it.
As for the meat of the show itself, it's much too early to have a solid verdict already but it does have me wanting to watch the next one so that says something. While the cases have a touch of the absurd to them, the first responders don't fall down a hole of goofiness in handling them. The show stays tight and is consistently moving forward after each case is completed, not spending time on dwelling on what happens to the victims they rescue. I really like Krause as Bobby with more of an edge to him than I'm used to him having. He tends to play such wonderfully likable guys who don't offend anyone and this guy seems like he might have some big skeletons to deal with. Britton and Bassett are fantastic as women who are taking on so much but you still don't see them lose an inch in being able to handle their workload. My only concern there being Britton's Abby being lost in the shuffle since she is behind at dispatch while all the others are out in the field. While I haven't been much of a fan of procedurals lately, 9-1- 1 does a great job of showing how (most of) these characters put their hearts into their jobs so much to not only help those that call in with emergencies but then still find enough to be able to take care of those they leave at home. I'm going to try and ride along for at least a few episodes on Fox.