9-1-1 s1 ep 10 (and Public Service Announcement 40 of 2018)

I’ve already written about the final episode of the first season of For the People, my favourite of Sky Witness’s three launch shows. Next up, and next best, is 9-1-1. (Sorry Instinct; I’ll get to you in due course.) I really couldn’t, in all honesty, make a case for 9-1-1 being anything other than a decent procedural, with a generous side helping of the characters’ complicated private lives. But, y’know, sometimes that’s enough.

In the show’s favour, it has done an excellent job of developing its ensemble cast. It’s also always prepared to make astute use of the quickly-over-and-done plot as well as the ones which linger for an episode or more. And this episode had a decent handful of the former. First up was what looked like being a domestic abuse he-said-she-said, in which the woman’s employment of all of the cliches from the American Scriptwriter’s Big Book O’ British Tropes was driving me utterly mad, to the point where I was taking the man’s side without any examination of the facts. But the show was well ahead of me. 

Next was a death in a psychic’s uh, office? Parlour? Except the dead person isn’t dead. This isn’t a spoiler. And after that, Midlife Crisis Guy buys a big red motorbike and on his way home is cut in half in an accident, but survives long enough to make a phone call to his son, who’s waiting to see him drive up to the house in triumph. I was moved. Bobby (Peter Krause) is affected to the point where he needs to go and pray, accompanied by Athena (Angela Bassett). 

And at this point a strange thing happens. Given how alive Unpopcult is to the possibility of the ship, I thought, it’s odd that I’ve never even considered Bobby and Athena – attractive, same age, now single – as a couple. But looking at them sitting there… we’ll come back to that. Because there’s lot of other relationship drama going on. 

Abby (Connie, obvs) is trying to reclaim her home, and her life, after the death of her mother, and decides to go to Dublin, not for a weekend break either. Buck (Oliver Stark) is properly supportive, even though he’s dealing with an unfortunate situation in which a dude sitting a trailer is pretending to be him and catfishing/ghosting women online. Possibly also gaslighting. I’m not sure I know how to use these words. The show, in fact, deserves credit for the way in which the nice little Abby/Buck relationship was handled. Hen (Aisha Hinds), meantime, is trying to get back together with her boring wife Karen (Tracie Thoms, not her fault), and forswearing her nastier but evidently more exciting ex Eva. Karen eventually gives way.

All of which leads to Bobby going on a date… with Athena. You know, despite not even having THOUGHT about this as a ship I am ENTIRELY ON BOARD with it. And also with the second season, which we in the UK are going straight into on Wednesday of this week at 10pm, 9-1-1 having been a reasonably successful purchase for Sky Witness. (I can’t imagine that going on directly after new episodes of Grey’s, which it will be, will hurt it either.) Connie isn’t coming back, mind you, which is a loss.

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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.

Public Service Announcement 29 of 2018: Burden of Truth; 9-1-1; Ten Days In The Valley

The premise of Canadian drama Burden of Truth is defiantly, almost ostentatiously stitched together from other TV shows and films: Kristin Kreuk stars as the big city professional who goes to a small town (Northern Exposure); specifically, she’s an attorney (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend); specifically, it’s her hometown (The Heart Guy); specifically, she’s fighting for people who have been poisoned by the actions of a corporate giant (Erin Brockovitch). It’s Erin Kreukovich, if you will. I’m guessing there’ll be a dash of Secret Pain, and maybe a Childhood Sweetheart she’s never really got over as well? Anyway, the reviews have been reasonably good, it’s only ten episodes long (although it has been renewed) and it’s Canadian, and Unpopcult is ALL ABOUT shows from the former Empire at the moment. In short, my suspicion is that this will be unexpectedly watchable (Tuesday 14 August, 9pm, Universal TV).

And the premise of American drama 9-1-1 seems to have stemmed from someone’s realisation that if you do a show about firefighters or medics or cops you’re limiting yourself unnecessarily: why not do a show about all three? Why not indeed. So the TV exec producer dream team of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Tim Minear, and Bradley Buecker has recruited a Star (Angela Bassett), some TV royalty (Connie Britton and Peter Krause), some excellent support (Kenneth Choi and Unpopcult favourite Rockmond Dunbar), and wrapped it all up in a great big first-responder drama in which, according to American broadcasters Fox, the protagonists “must try to balance saving those who are at their most vulnerable with solving the problems in their own lives”. You… don’t say. The reviews have been OK-ish, but Murphy and Falchuk know what they’re about, and Britton and Krause have been over the course and distance before. Once again, it’s a ten-episode first season; once again, it’s been renewed (Wednesday 15 August, 9pm, Sky Witness).

We’ll have first episode reviews of both as soon as we can. We probably won’t be reviewing ABC’s Ten Days In The Valley, which starts tonight, but it’s worth saying that it might well merit a look: Kyra Sedgwick stars as a TV producer whose daughter disappears in the middle of the night. Currie Graham, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Erika Christensen are in the cast as well, the reviews were reasonable, but audiences didn’t bite. Ten episodes again. I like this trend towards shorter first seasons a lot (tonight, Alibi, 10pm).