For their new Fox series ‘9-1-1’, prolific producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (‘Glee’, ‘American Horror Story’, ‘American Crime Story’, ‘Feud’, etc.) try their hands at a genre they’ve never tackled before – the straightforward procedural drama. They should not do this again. They are very, very bad at it.
‘9-1-1’ isn’t just a cop show, or a firefighter show, or a paramedic show. It’s all of those, like it’s trying to be NBC’s entire ‘Chicago…’ franchise all smashed together into a single hour. With Murphy and Falchuk behind the scenes, they’ve assembled an overqualified cast who undoubtedly all signed on as soon as they received the call, before any scripts were even written. Everyone really should have waited.
Peter Krause plays Bobby Nash, a firefighter first responder. If he seems overly straight-laced and by-the-book, that’s because he’s trying to put his past misdeeds as an alcoholic and addict behind him. Now he’s super-religious and a hardass boss to the men who work for him, especially a dipshit kid named Buckley who keeps sneaking off to have sex in the firetruck with whores and other bimbos. Nash starts off the pilot episode having a really bad day when he fails to stop a suicidal girl from jumping off a building.
Angela Bassett is a cop named Athena Grant, who’s in a perpetual foul mood due to the fact that her husband recently came out as gay. Coordinating their work efforts is saintly 911 operator Abby Clark (Connie Britton), who has her own soap opera storyline involving a mother with Alzheimer’s.
The pilot episode sees these characters face several ridiculously contrived emergencies. Nash and Buckley save a young boy from drowning in a swimming pool, pull a premie baby out of a sewer pipe after its teenage mother flushes it down the toilet, and stop a boa constrictor from strangling an idiot goth chick. Nash then fires Buckley for banging the snake owner while on duty.
Abby receives a panicked call from a young girl home alone when a pair of super-skeevy dirtbag intruders break into her house. Because she just moved there, the girl doesn’t know her own address yet and the GPS in her phone isn’t working. Abby sends Athena to the right neighborhood, but Athena doesn’t want to blare her police car sirens for fear of tipping off the robbers. Fortunately, Buckley is still in the fire station with a spare firetruck, so Athena calls him over to blare those sirens instead, allowing Abby to triangulate the correct house from the sounds over the phone. As the dirtbags try to escape and slip past Athena, Buckley saves the day by blasting one with the truck’s water cannon.
Nash is so impressed with Buckley’s heroism that he immediately rehires him to the fire department (does a lieutenant really have that authority?), and everyone shares a congratulatory victory montage played to the most clichéd song choice imaginable – Queen and Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” of course.
Episode Verdict / Grade: D-
This show is laughably awful. All of the emergency situations are absurd and the soap opera connective tissue is extremely boring. The cast do their best to keep straight faces during all this, but can barely suppress their eye-rolling when reading the dialogue. It’s also set in a ludicrous fantasy version of Los Angeles where there’s never any traffic (seriously, every single street is completely empty all day long), only one fire crew and one police officer service the entire greater L.A. metropolitan area, and every location looks like a photo spread from the pages of Architectural Digest. My wife and I were howling at the luxuriously appointed fire station and 911 call center.
Nothing about this series takes place in any semblance of reality. It’s too dumb to be taken seriously as drama and too straight-faced to be played for camp.
The new year is only a few days old and we already have a contender for worst new series of 2018.