9-1-1 s1 ep 1

Abby (Secret Pains: boyfriend left her, mother has Alzheimer’s; played by Connie Britton, good but comfortably in her wheelhouse) is an emergency dispatcher in LA: she answers the calls, directs the first responders, and keeps the panicked caller talking until help gets there. That help is provided by, among others, fire department captain Bobby (Secret Pain: recovering alcoholic; played by Peter Krause, good but etc.) and LAPD sergeant Athena (Secret Pain: her husband, the father of her children, has just come out as gay; played by Angela Bassett, and you know how this goes by now).

They are supported by, among others, young hothead LAFD rookie Buck (Oliver Stark, interesting), whose inability to keep his, uh, hose in his firetruck around attractive women ultimately leads to Bobby giving him a #MeToo era sacking (“It’s not 1950 any more. We work with women side by side”); and LAFD paramedics Hen (Aisha Hinds) and Chimney (Kenneth Choi).

And that’s pretty much it as far as the premise goes. There are three Cases of the Week in this episode. In the first, a stoner calls in claiming that there’s a baby crying inside the walls of his apartment: maybe someone flushed a baby down the toilet and it got stuck? This is clearly preposterous, except that’s what happened. In the second, a woman is being choked to death by her pet snake. The amount of time it takes the assembled first responders to decide to kill the effing snake is surprising.

So far, so meh; and I was left thinking that I would have expected a show with Ryan Murphy’s name on it to be a little bit more exciting, or shocking, or… something? The third Case of the Week, though, works. Abby takes a call from a nine-year-old girl, alone in her suburban house, who claims that home invaders are trying to get into her home; and she doesn’t know her address because they’ve just moved in.

To start with, the precise nature of the threat is left tantalisingly unclear, until it all snaps into focus. Abby, by phone, quarterbacks the terrified girl round her house, while trying to find out where she lives in order to direct the emergency services. It’s nothing new, but it’s done very well, and in a way which gives Buck an opportunity to redeem himself while assuring Abby that she’s the real hero. It actually occurred to me while watching this that it would be entirely possible – in fact, likely – that Abby might not ever be in the same room as any of the emergency workers. On the other hand, as she and Bobby – attractive, been round the block once or twice, ruefulness in their eyes – are the show’s obvious ship, I’d be a little disappointed if the writers didn’t at least give that a go.

On balance, I’m probably going to watch 9-1-1 again, although that might well be, in part, because of the comfort offered by the familiar: I like Britton, I like Krause, and I like slick procedurals. If you want more than that, I’m not sure yet that this is the show for you.

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3 thoughts on “9-1-1 s1 ep 1

  1. CJ Cregg August 25, 2018 / 12:31 pm

    I was disappointed in the first episode. I know network pilots need to establish a lot very quickly these days, but this one picked very, very lazy ways of doing that. The dialogue was all really clunky and exposition-tastic and Abby’s voiceover was incredibly patronising and unnecessary. And stupid. The writers clearly didn’t trust the audience to work out anything by themselves or to have the patience to glean it gradually over the course of a few eps, so we had to have all the main characters’ backstories/Secret Pains spelled out for us in capital letters and neon lights within five seconds of meeting them.

    Also, as you say, Jed, everyone was very much playing to type. Which would be fine if they had decent material to work with, but a cast of this calibre deserved way better. Connie, Peter and Angela all just about made it work despite the appalling dialogue but I was struck by how much more interesting it might have been if, just for a change, Connie and Angela swapped roles and Angela got to be caring and wear a big cardigan, while Connie got to storm around being the no-nonsense tough cop.

    While I’m getting this off my chest, I found Buck incredibly annoying and I would be happy if I never saw or heard from this character ever again, so of course he was practically the centrepiece of the thing and got lots of scenes and the big hero save (which was pretty cool, I can’t even pretend) at the end. While Hen, who is an actual adult and potentially intriguing, just got scraps.

    Having said all that, I thought the actual emergencies were good, well-told and genuinely compelling. I really liked that they were all done in short, quick chunks then on to the next one – I know, like the job etc. I’m sure I read somewhere that at least the baby one – which I was very glad I knew the outcome of in advance because, my God, it was stressful to watch – was based on a true story, which made me freak out even more.

    Also – because this is turning into an essay – I then watched ep 2 which I thought was a lot better and had ironed out quite a few of the problems with ep 1. Ep 2 had much better dialogue, no stupid voiceover and “Carla Price” who was so nice she actually made me teary. We should all be like Carla Price. Although I am not happy that she and the show are shipping Abby and Buck, because Buck is the absolute worst and basically a teenager who is in no way worthy, and PETER KRAUSE IS RIGHT THERE. Writers, you’re seriously going to give me a show built almost entirely of cliche but deprive me of the one cliche that I actually want the most?! I DEMAND TAMI TAYLOR AND PETER KRAUSE IMMEDIATELY.

    • Jed Bartlet August 25, 2018 / 12:34 pm

      I agree about ep 2 – I thought it was significantly better.

  2. Bill August 27, 2018 / 9:29 pm

    I was completely unimpressed by the first episode, and was ready to cut and run. But perhaps it was sinply first episode jitters, and I like Connie too much not to give the second episode a shot. You guys have convinced me.

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