Cast: Angela Bassett (“American Horror Story,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It”), Peter Krause (“The Catch,” “Six Feet Under”), Connie Britton (“Friday Night Lights,” “Nashville”), Kenneth Choi (“The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story”), Oliver Stark (“Into the Badlands”), Aisha Hinds (“Shots Fired,” “Underground”)
Airs: The series premieres on Fox at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 3
The premise: Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the creative team behind “American Horror Story,” “Glee,” and “Nip/Tuck,” immerse viewers into the world of first responders with the new procedural drama “9-1-1.” This fast paced series focuses on the pressures and psychological impact three different teams of first responders deal with at work, and how it effects their lives at home.
Highs: The cast of “9-1-1” is star studded, and Murphy and Falchuk use their three primary leads effectively, with each one an important component in a larger narrative. Bobby Nash (Peter Krause) leads a team of paramedics and firefighters. At 50-years old, he’s a vet who’s decisive and sharp. Nash has a quick thinking and efficient crew, for the most part. An impulsive young man on his team (Oliver Stark) requires some tough love from time to time.
Detective Athena Grant (Angela Bassett) is a Los Angeles police officer. Hard edged and no-nonsense, she’s not someone you want to mess with. Abby Clark (Connie Britton) takes emergency calls at the 9-1-1 call center and feels good about helping others, although she frequently wonders what happens after help arrives and she’s no longer involved.
Every one of these characters is smart, brave, and at the top of their game. But what makes them so interesting is their sacrifices to the greater good have come at a cost to their personal lives. Abby’s mother has Alzheimer’s and she can’t be around for her as much as she’d like. Her job is too important. Athena’s family is in disarray as she and her husband struggle with their marriage. And Bobby is a recovering alcoholic, trying to come to terms with the fact that he just can’t save everyone no matter how hard he tries.
Being a first responder is a rewarding experience for each of these characters but it also comes with its share of regrets and disappointments. That doesn’t mean this is a dour series. The action in the pilot happens so fast that viewers won’t have time to feel blue. When you’re a first responder, sometimes you don’t have much time to think. You just have to act.
Lows: “9-1-1” is heavily stylized, from the sets to the cast. I’ve been to plenty of public buildings but I’ve never seen anything quite as swanky as the fire house Bobby Nash and his team work out of or the emergency call center that Abby Clark works at. Both sets look modern and expensive.
The cast is also incredibly on point, looking like they came straight out of a police or fire department recruitment video. Maybe everyone in California looks this good and every public facility is this high tech but I doubt it. This hyper clean aesthetic takes some of the realistic feel out of the show.
Grade: (B+): A number of years ago I was friends with a firefighter. He was one of the nicest guys I ever met, but he had seen some crazy stuff that he just couldn’t forget. He’d share some of the tamer experiences he had and even those blew my mind. I thought of him as I was watching this series, which offers a slightly different take to the police/medical procedural. While no one is going to mistake this program for a documentary, I think my friend would have appreciated “9-1-1’s” attempt at authenticity. A fast paced, action packed show with a great cast, this new show has a lot of potential.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.