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.