Angela Bassett, Peter Krause and Connie Britton get top billing in the new Fox series “9-1-1,” but it’s Oliver Stark as a reckless member of the firefighting team who bears watching.
He’s allegedly a sex addict who constantly derails his career with rash moves. Although he manages to save a baby and stop a robber in the course of a day, he’s put in check by his superior (Krause) who doesn’t like anyone who isn’t a cool thinker. Obviously, there’s a lot of that same spirit in him, but a stint in rehab put the veteran on another course and prompted the guys at the station to call him “Pops.”
Meanwhile, at the 911 switchboard, Britton is calmly talking down everyone from a stoner who thinks there’s a baby in his wall to a little girl trying to escape the clutches of home invaders. Think of films like “The Call” and you’ll get the picture. She also has domestic woes and a workplace that hardly seems ripe for action.
The police point of this triangle (shades of Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” series) is maintained by Angela Bassett, who isn’t afraid to get very dramatic with everyone she encounters. She has problems at home, too, and a stony exterior that might have made her a valuable member of “Emergency” had she been around when that NBC series was made.
Far more formulaic than you’d expect from Executive Producer Ryan Murphy, “9-1-1” sparks to life when it’s dealing with the oddest cases. A baby in a building’s pipes is only one example. Before the first hour is done, we see a woman threatening to jump off a building, a snake gone wild and a chase through what one character calls “Steven Spielberg land.”
A young priest shows up, too, and there are enough supporting players to keep this going even if the three stars tire of its run-and-gun premise.
Ideal for the Twitter generation, “9-1-1” teases scenes just before commercial breaks. It follows through, but if you want more than quick hits and momentary blood pressure rushes, you’re not going to find it here.
The relationship are only hinted at. When Bassett has a big discussion with her husband, we see why the series’ thrust is action. Some of the talky stuff is, well, boring.
Krause jumps in with his backstory, tells plenty to the priest, and becomes part of the stereotype. Folks in these high-risk jobs, apparently, have a high incidence of drug use, gambling and sex addiction. He, we learn, is a “been-there, done-that” kind of guy.
Stark’s Evan “Buck” Buckley, however, is in the thick of it.
He plays fast and loose with everything, loses his job and, thanks to Bassett, finds a way to battle back. He’s also not afraid to enjoy a few fringe benefits but it’s clear he’s the rebel and Krause is the cause.
While Britton can’t work every shift, she’s likely going to be the glue that holds these cases together. She gives good phone and looks calm and collected even though she has plenty of other things to think about.
“As soon as help arrives, most people just hang up,” she says. Thus, it’s probably going to be a “very special episode” when these disparate threads are pulled together.
Because we’ve seen so much depth from Murphy in past series, it’s strange to find something as formulaic as “9-1-1.” This isn’t like anything on his – or his stars’ resume – but it could be his way of saying he’s going to change the template.
If not, those “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med” fans have a Los Angeles cousin to add to their weekly viewing.
“9-1-1” airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on Fox.