Or Nah? is a feature where we watch and review the first episode of a new TV show. We’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out. As always, these reviews are the opinion of the reviewer, but we’ll try to adequately explain why you should or shouldn’t give the show a chance and provide shows for comparison.
What’s it about?
9-1-1 is the newest addition to network television’s bevy of procedural dramas. Helmed by Brad Fulchuk, Tim Minear and Ryan Murphy, this Fox show is set in Los Angeles, and focuses on to the daily challenges — both personal and professional — of first responders. Abby Clark (Connie Britton–Nashville) serves as the voice of the show, similar to Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy. She is a 9-1-1 operator and primary caretaker for her mother who suffers from dementia. She is joined by Bobby Nash (Peter Krause –Parenthood) recovering addict and fireman, and Athena Grant (Angela Bassett–American Horror Story) police officer who is working through her own family secrets. The remaining cast is rounded out by a trio of firefighters Hen (Aisha Hinds–Underground); Howie (Kenneth Choi –American Crime Story); Buck (Oliver Stark –Into the Badlands) and Michael Grant, Athena’s recently openly gay husband (Rockmund Dunbar–Prison Break and Sons of Anarchy).
The pilot episode follows the basic procedural formula incorporating several cases of the day which display the strengths and weaknesses of first responders. The cases feel like they have some heft and not all come with a happy ending, and truly most of the call-outs don’t offer a tidy conclusion. The cases of the week included a newborn stuck in a toilet drain, a jumper, a woman being asphyxiated by her pet ball python and a little girl trapped in a home during an armed breaking and entering. We, the audience, receive the same ending as the first responders; when their job of trying to save lives, both success and failure ends at the door of the emergency department or when the police cruiser leaves the scene.
What keeps the episode interesting and the viewers invested are the character moments between the action. No one feels like a throwaway. I want to know more about Howie and his penchant for pop culture references; we meet him as he is Netflix and chilling to Die Hard. Hen offers a bit more heart to the team as well as some common sense and conscience. Bobby is a natural leader who sees and seeks the potential in others and works to keep them on the straight and narrow; he is the only reason Buck still has a job. This is also the first time I have raised a sexy eyebrow at Peter Krause as his newly buff physique fills out his uniform quite nicely.
What’s not as good?
Buck is leaning heavily into the heartthrob, sex-obsessed, reckless fireman role, this could get old if over the course of the season he doesn’t show some level of growth. He’s already had sex in the firetruck as well as using the ladder to have sex on the roof of a building with a woman he’d previously rescued. Abby and Athena are currently facing the most challenges at home. Abby tries to solve problems as a 9-1-1 operator during the day and tends to her mother in the evening, and so far it appears she has no other life in between. Athena is the mother of two and wife to a man who is finally living his truth. But is Athena a big enough person to live in her own truth and help her children cope with the change in their family dynamic? The casting for this family of 4 is… questionable, but perhaps they cast for talent and not for visuals. While the storylines for Abby and Athena have the potential to tug at your heartstrings, they can come across a little heavy handed and the potential to overact these storylines is high.
The concept of this show is not new in comparison to other procedurals except perhaps the caliber of talent offered. It’s one-stop shopping for actors who have, at one time or another, made me feel and weep and laugh. So far, Fulchuk, Minear, and Murphy have offered a show with a delicate balance of performances and if it stays this way, it could become a must watch, or at the least, must watch in the first 24-hours after an episode has aired type of show. 9-1-1 is not groundbreaking television, but it is good television. In a sea of past their prime procedurals, 9-1-1 offers something more.
Watch this if you like:
NCIS, Chicago Fire, Grey’s Anatomy
Don’t Watch this if:
You are sick and tired of these mickey-fickey procedurals on your mickey-fickey tv.
9-1-1 Premiere Review Score
9-1-1 | Wednesdays on FOX