Genre: Action, Drama
Cast: Angela Bassett, Peter Krause, Oliver Stark, Aisha Hinds
For those looking for a traditional show about rescue personnel, Fox’s drama 9-1-1 isn’t for you. This program strives to be unconventional and unique and for most of the time, it succeeds admirably.
Created by Ryan Murphy, Tim Minear and Brad Falchuk, the thrilling program focuses on different emergency employees who could be called in a moment of crisis. Connie Britton stars as Abby Clark, a 9-1-1 operator who is often the first person to speak to a person in turmoil. Peter Krause co-stars as Bobby Nash, the leader of a local fire department. Rounding out the main cast is Angela Bassett, who plays the often-dispatched police officer Athena Grant.
In the show’s opening minutes, the program’s style comes into full focus. This isn’t a typical emergency drama. Some of the emergencies here are outlandishly unique. The pilot features a baby caught into the building’s plumbing and that’s only one of the quirky cases that appear in the episode.
Because these emergencies can be so extreme (another one involves a snake nearly killing its owner), part of the show’s excitement derives from wondering how the creators will top the last case. And top it, they often do.
The characters do keep the drama grounded though with the underrated Bassett stealing the show as a wife and mother struggling with her husband’s sexuality. At work, Athena is one of the toughest people on the force but at home, she faces her own struggles as a member of a family that’s slowly coming apart.
Bassett often captures her character’s dilemma without saying a word. Athena is one of the few characters here who doesn’t often have the opportunity to voice her own frustrations on someone else’s shoulder so the actress has to reveal herself with her movements, her tone, and the intensity she brings to every scene.
She does that time and again and even when she makes bad decisions, we can understand and empathize with them.
As was the case with Glee, a previous Murphy production, there are some plotlines here that don’t really work. Nash’s co-worker Buck (Oliver Stark), for instance, is introduced as a young firefighter who wants to sleep with every beautiful woman he meets. The first episode shows him abusing his power and Nash terminating him. Of course, the young firefighter comes through with a last-minute save and redeems himself. For a show bursting with personality, this story feels a bit outdated.
Buck eventually begins a relationship with Abby but even that story has its weaknesses, including the fact that he seems to answer his phone even in the midst of emergencies.
Because the characters are dealing with horrifying situations throughout the day, there are usually several high-priority calls in each episode so these sporadic calls really give the show much-needed jolts. Like in real-life, the characters never know what awaits call on the other end of the line.
Despite a few traditional story choices, 9-1-1 is still highly enjoyable and entertaining. The concept of the show works superbly and the emergency stories really stand out even when the show stumbles with some of its characters and a few unbelievable twists (including one concerning Nash’s past). Viewers might be able to believe some of the outlandish calls but there are other elements here that ring false, which keeps the show from reaching its true potential.
Review by: John Hanlon