9-1-1

3 out of 5

Created by: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear

covers season 1

In reviewing the TV careers of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, a general m.o. emerges: the duo has a creative lean toward soap opera, chopped up and skewered through whichever genre.  Sure, this could be said about a lot of TV, but in the same way that a show like Jane the Virgin applies a telenovella guide to its serialized-cliffhanger structure, so too do Murphy and Falchuk love their over-drama so-and-so-is-back-from- the-dead-and-is-so-and-so’s-sister soap opera camp veneer.  It becomes clearer, then, why their excellent O.J. Simpson tale was of interest – the craziness was already built into that, and exemplified that, dependent on the way the duo choose to express their interests, we can get shows that are trashier (Nip / Tuck, AHS), popcorn (Glee), or – rarely, though, like only American Crime Story – more contemplative.

No, 9-1-1 doesn’t fall into that last category.  But neither is it trashy.  Which leaves… popcorn!  9-1-1 follows a crew of good looking firemen and fire ladies, one 911 operator (Connie Britton) and one police sergeant (Angela Bassett), each with primed inner turmoil, as the show speed-dials every insane 911 incident known to have ever occurred and uses the events – jam-packed as 3 or 4 calls per episode – to mirror whatever personal drams happen that week.  Relationship woes, family woes, etcetera.  If you’re like me, after the first couple eps worth of wacky calls, you’re wondering really how much mileage that setup offers (ignoring that police procedurals have been solving the same beat cases for decades now…), but that’s where good casting helps: led by the always charming Peter Krause, our group of featured players are all very, very likeable, and so it’s totally fine to spend time with them and not always be mired in crisis.  And because the show is popcorn, veering far from true trash and never trying hard to “make a point,” our b.s. guard is rarely up while viewing.

The Murphy / Falchuk boys know their TV.  9-1-1 is as average as it comes, but the duo’s formula makes for appealing week to week watching.