January 4, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “9-1-1”


9-1-1:  Wednesday 9PM on FOX – Surprisingly Unsurprising

Saying that FOX’s 9-1-1 is the Ryan Murphy team’s version of a Dick Wolf procedural makes it sound far more subversive and original than it actually is.  In fact, for the most part its opening hour is virtually indistinguishable from one of the cogs in Wolf’s wheel of dramas.

The chief exception to that principle is the casting, which is far more deluxe than Wolf would ever permit in one of his budgets:  Connie Britton, Angela Bassett and Peter Krause, any one of whom could anchor a series on their own, all decided to co-star in 9-1-1 (Britton and Bassett are previous members of Murphy ensembles, and Bassett also serves as one of the producers here), and although they’re using a small percentage of their talents, they give the series a weight it wouldn’t otherwise merit.

Like Wolf’s Chicago universe, and John Wells’s Third Watch before it, 9-1-1 tells its stories at the intersection of a city’s emergency personnel.  In this case, the location is Los Angeles, where Abby Clark (Britton) is a dispatcher who calmly deals with the array of crises that get phoned in each day.  Among the troops at her disposal are firefighter/paramedic Bobby Nash (Krause) and cop Athena Grant (Bassett).  Krause’s team includes Buck (Oliver Stark), Hen (Aisha Hinds) and Chimney (Kenneth Choi).

The pilot script, written by Murphy and his usual cohorts Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear (the latter will serve as showrunner), sends its heroes on a variety of missions, some deadly serious (a teen’s newborn flushed into the pipes of her apartment building’s walls), and others more comic (a snake collector being strangled by one of her pets).  Each is resolved tidily within a few minutes of screen time.  Each character, in addition, gets a personal issue to give the drama a bit of serialization:  Abby’s mother has Alzheimer’s, Bobby is a recovering alcoholic, Athena is coping with a husband who just came out of the closet, Buck is a courageous hothead who’ll sleep with any woman who crosses his path, and so on.

Under Bradley Buecker’s direction (he’s another Team Murphy veteran), the hour has gloss and pace, not to mention those expert actors in the leads, and viewers in the mood for a conventional hour of action drama will enjoy their time spent watching it.  But 9-1-1 is by far the most ordinary show Murphy has assembled, and it suggests that he’s ready to enter the mogul portion of his career, supervising shows that justify their license fees even if they lack a personal touch.  (Think of Greg Berlanti, whose empire ranges from CW’s superhero shows to NBC’s Blindspot.)  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and nothing wrong with emulating Dick Wolf, whose shows entertain millions week in and week out.  It’s just not the very distinct kind of work we’ve come to expect–for better and worse–under the Murphy logo.

FOX has had a solid success with the buddy-cop show Lethal Weapon, and 9-1-1, with the unkillable X-Files as its lead in, may well be at least as popular.  It should please many, although it may not linger very long in their minds afterward.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."