“Murphy Brown” Revival Not As Strong As Other Recent Revivals but Still Should Be a Fun Ride

Given the current political climate, I don’t think anyone was surprised that CBS decided to bring back “Murphy Brown” after a 20 year hiatus. The show ran for 10 years from 1988-1998. Candace Bergen stars as the title character who is an anchor of a TV news magazine show. At the beginning of the original series she was trying to put her life back together after doing a stint in the Betty Ford Center as a recovering alcoholic.

In the opening episode of this reboot we find Murphy is retired but is restless about the current state of politics and journalism. She decides to put the old gang back together and to rejoin TV. Her son who was born amidst a bit of controversy during the original run of the series is now a grown man and a journalist himself. He ends up getting a TV show in her timeslot on a rival network called “Wolf” network (obviously a humorous nod to “Fox” network).

The original series became a topic of public debate when VP Dan Quayle criticized the show as detrimental to family values because Murphy was raising her son as a single mother. After his comments, the show did a special episode in response. Details can be found in this section of the Wikipedia article about the show.

Much of the original cast has returned. Faith Ford returns as perky reporter and former Miss America Corky Sherwood. Joe Regalbuto is fellow reporter Frank Fontana. Grant Shaud returns as their neurotic producer Miles Silverberg. With a couple of exceptions none of the cast has been seen very much except for an occasional guest star running a variety of and comedies and dramas. Bergen had several successful seasons opposite William Shatner and James Spader on Boston Legal, Also faith Ford did have her own sitcom “Hope & Faith” with Kelly Ripa that ran for for 3 from 2003-2006 seasons but was unremarkable.

Missing from the original cast are Pat Corley who played Phil the owner of a diner where the gang would hang out. He passed away in 2006. He has been replaced by Tyne Daly who plays a character called Phyllis who is the sister of Phil and has taken over the diner. Also missing is the very funny Robert Pastorelli as Eldin Bernecky who Murphy hired to paint her home but it took him several seasons to complete the job. She eventually hired him as a male nanny to care for her son Avery. Pastorelli passed away in 2004.

New to the cast are Jake McDorman as her son Avery. He was recently seen in the TV series “Limitless” about a guy who takes a pill that makes him super smart. Also we have Nik Dodani recently seen in a Netflix series “Atypical“. His character Pat Patel is a young tech savvy media consultant who is trying to teach Murphy and the gang how to capitalize on social media. In the opening episode he encourages Murphy to join twitter and she ends up in a twitter war with Pres. Trump. She also reveals that at one point Murphy Brown once dated Donald Trump. This is based on the true story that Candace Bergen herself once went on a date with Donald Trump when she was 18 years old. Here is a YouTube video of her appearance on Stephen Colbert discussing the date with Trump.

One of the running jokes of the original series was that Murphy could not keep a secretary employed. She would have to interview and hire a new person every week. Keeping with that tradition she interviewed a new potential secretary that was played by guest star Hillary Clinton. She wasn’t playing the “real” Hillary Clinton. She was a character named Hilary with one “L”. But there were lots of Hillary jokes thrown in.

Having Clinton guest star continues another tradition of the series having real-life politicians and other TV journalists appear on the show as themselves. We can expect that tradition to continue as well.

The plot of the first episode explored the struggle between being a serious journalist and making compelling high rated TV shows. It’s a little bit difficult to get a feel for the tone of the new series because much of the episode was about getting the old gang back together and introducing the new characters.

I was a big fan of the original series. This revival didn’t immediately impress me in the same way that the revivals of “Will & Grace” or “Roseanne” did. Those other two shows seem to hit their stride immediately as if they had never been off the air. Still there is enough of the old chemistry and ample opportunity for storytelling in the current political climate that this should be a fine ride once it gets going.

I’m giving it a solid rating of “I Am Watching It” and if you are politically center or left and like political humor I highly recommend it.

“FBI” Is Another Potential Hit for Dick Wolf

Producer Dick Wolf is responsible for creating at least two of the most successful series of TV programs on the air today. He is responsible for all versions of the “Law & Order” franchise as well as the various “Chicago…” programs which occupy the entire NBC schedule on Wednesday night this year. His new series “FBI” appears to have the same high level of drama, action and compelling entertainment as all of his other offerings.

This police procedural covers the agents of the New York office of the FBI. The major characters are two field agents. One is Maggie Bell played by Missy Peregrym who is been recently seen in the Syfy Channel series “Van Helsing” and “Ten Days in the Valley“. The other is Special Agent Omar Adom ‘OA’ Zidan played by Zeeko Zaki who has recently been seen in the military drama “Valor” and “24: Legacy“. The field agents are backed up by Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jubal Valentine played by Jeremy Sisto.

The opening sequence has the agents appearing on the scene of an apartment building explosion and realizing that there may be more bombs. Agent Bell orders the evacuation of all rescue personnel. As she expected, another explosion occurred a few moments later and brought down the entire building. The special-effects of these bombings sequences are state-of-the-art and quite dramatic.

Some of the drama comes from the fact that she refused to let a mother go back into the building and look for her missing son. Throughout the episode she is haunted by that mother’s grief and the loss of the small boy.

The remainder of the show is pretty much a typical police procedural story trying to figure out who is responsible for the bombing. There are other bombings and other bombs found before the case is solved. The urgency of the need to find the people responsible is palpable and keeps the story flowing well.

Basically everything you like about any other Dick Wolf produced and created procedural show you will find in this one. Do we really need another of these considering how many other programs he produces? That’s a question you will have to answer for yourself. But if you like his programs, this is definitely worth looking into.

You’re not going to get the overly complicated plot lines of recent shows like Quantico in which the storytellers seem to deliberately mislead the audience by hiding people’s motives. This is a basic straightforward police procedural but it is very well done.

I’m giving it an initial rating of “I’m Watching It” but it might slip to a similar “Recommended Watch” if my schedule gets too crowded.

“Manifest” Has the Potential to Be Good Sci-Fi If It Doesn’t Get Lost

The sci-fi genre is all based on the question “what if?” What if you lived on a desert planet a long time ago in a galaxy far far away and suddenly found yourself thrust into the adventure of a lifetime? What if you are the captain of a starship given the task of exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before? What if time travel was possible? What if there was a zombie apocalypse? There is a contract between the creator of a sci-fi work and the reader or viewer. The contract says “Buy into my premise no matter how bizarre or otherworldly and then let me explore with you what will be the consequences.”

Good sci-fi operates under this contract. It doesn’t cheat. Once you by the premise, everything else which flows forth from that has to be logically consistent. Once you establish the rules of the universe in which you are operating, you really shouldn’t break those rules.

For the most part NBC’s new much advertised sci-fi series “Manifest” does a reasonably good job of playing the “what if” game with its audience. From the massive advertising campaign we thought we knew what that big “what if” question was. “What if a passenger airliner disappeared for five and a half years and suddenly reappeared?” From the perspective of the people on board the airplane, they went through a storm and a patch of rough turbulence but landed normally and hour or so later. However from the perspective of the outside world they had been missing for 5+ years. To my surprise, the premise goes a bit further. The survivors of this bizarre incident also gain a type of psychic ability that is manifested in the form of an inner voice that guides them to rescue people. I’m a bit concerned that this additional premise is a premise too far.

The missing airplane premise alone had the potential to make a really compelling story. It’s reminiscent of the hit TV series “Lost” (2004-2010) which asked the question “What if an airplane crashed on an uncharted island and the survivors had to deal with the harsh conditions, reconcile their past, and trying to understand the meaning behind their survival?” Had that been this sole premise of “Lost” it could have been a very compelling story. But it went further and added all sorts of bizarre supernatural elements, mysticism, unexplained scientific phenomena, not to mention a smoke monster. Initially I thought that the producers of “Lost” ruined what was going to be a pretty good show about survival. But these bizarre supernatural elements were so compelling and such a complexly written mythology that it made the show even more compelling. Unfortunately the ending which tried to explain everything left many viewers including myself quite disappointed.

Another example of the “what if unexplained phenomena occurred” genre was the recent HBO series “The Leftovers“. In that story, 2% of the world’s population vanished from the face of the earth with no explanation whatsoever. After three seasons of that series and a reasonable wrapup and conclusion they never did explain why it happened. If you read about the series, you knew up front that it was the producers and writers intended up front to never explain this unexplainable phenomenon. It was all about playing the “what if” game. Although that series did go astray a couple of times into a dream world that was a parallel reality as well as a death and resurrection of some of the characters, it pretty much played the “what if” game cleanly.

So back to the story at hand “Manifest”… In addition to the “what if a plane disappeared and came back five years later” premise. We soon discover that some of the survivors of this bizarre circumstance suddenly start hearing voices in their heads. These voices are leading them in directions where they save people’s lives. In one case a woman riding on a bus implores the bus driver to slow down and thus saves the life of a child who runs into the street in front of the bus. In another sequence the voices lead the woman to discover the location of two kidnapped children.

My concern is that this additional supernatural element has the potential to ruin the really compelling storytelling opportunities about what your life would be like if you disappeared for five years and then came back. I have to feel a little disappointed that this unexpected additional premise is part of the show. It seems that there are a lot of great storytelling opportunities based on the original missing plane premise. I’m not sure that the guiding voices in one’s head really is necessary.

Can “Manifest” become the next “Lost”? The jury is a long way from coming back on that verdict and we won’t really know unless the show survives multiple seasons and becomes the same sort of cult phenomena of “Lost”.

The encouraging thing about the show is that if you dismiss this add-on supernatural element and only focus on the what if you disappeared for five years and came back story line, it is doing an absolutely brilliant job of exploring that drama.

Our main character is Michaela Stone played by Melissa Roxburgh who was most recently seen in the single-season of the military drama “Valor“. She is an NYPD detective who is trying to escape a personal tragedy. She goes on vacation with her brother Ben, his wife and twin children, and her parents. Ben is played by Josh Dallas whom you will remember as Prince Charming from “Once Upon A Time“. Because of a flight overbooking she, brother Ben, and one of his children Cal decide to take a later flight back from their Jamaican vacation. The parents, sister-in-law, and other child take the original flight and arrive normally. Michaela, Ben, and Cal end up on the infamous flight 828 which disappeared and reappeared. Nephew Cal is a terminal cancer patient. Upon his return they discover that there is a new treatment developed during the five year absence that will offer him good hope of a cure.

Much of the story revolves around Michaela, brother Ben, cancer patient Cal, his twin sister Olive is now five years older, and Ben’s wife Grace. Michaela wrestles with the fact that her mother died during the absence. Her boyfriend moved on to marry another woman. And there are hints that Ben’s wife Grace has perhaps developed another relationship as well.

Despite the bizarre premise, this part of the story plays the “what if” game beautifully. You find the characters deep, compelling, internally consistent. It makes an unbelievable premise all the more believable and that’s what good sci-fi is all about. It illuminates the human condition using extraordinary circumstances and I mean that in the literal sense of the word “extra ordinary”.

One of the key features of the mythology of “Lost” was the symbolism and significance of various numbers. “Manifest” steals from that idea by attaching significance to the number 828. It was the flight number of their airplane. It was the address of the kidnapped girls that were discovered. It even refers to a Scripture quote Romans 8:28 which was often quoted by Michaela’s now deceased mother. So those who liked the mythology and mysticism and “Lost” are likely to be intrigued by this new show.

However if “Lost” left you cold with its over-the-top bizarre storylines, I encourage you to give this new show a chance and we will have to wait and see together if it goes off the rails and becomes unbelievably bizarre or if it could hang onto its core premise of exploring human nature and relationships under unusual circumstances.

For now I’m giving it a “I’m watching it” and my hope is that it doesn’t know too far astray and I can upgrade it to a rating of “I really like it”. I recommend you at least give it a try for a couple of episodes.

Jim Carrey Isn’t Kidding in This Very Dark Comedy

The idea of Jim Carrey playing a “Mr. Rogers like” host of a children’s TV show looks a little bit creepy when you see the previews. Watching the new Showtime series “Kidding” doesn’t alleviate those concerns. I’ve watched 2 episodes so far and I so can’t figure out if it’s a comedy or a drama. Mostly it’s just weird.

Carrey plays Jeff Pickles a.k.a. Mr. Pickles the host of a beloved children’s puppet show on PBS for 30 years. His personal life however is a shambles because is son was killed in an auto accident one year ago. His marriage which was already in trouble falls apart. He tries to make sense of the world and maintain a good relationship with his surviving son who was a twin of the deceased boy.

In the opening episode he tries to convince his producer Sebastian played by Frank Langella that they should do a show about death. The idea is rejected because not only is this a beloved children show, it is a multimillion dollar branding and marketing institution that could be damaged by taking on such a dark topic.

It turns out that Sebastian is not only his producer but his father. Also his sister Deidre played by Catherine Keener works on the show as a puppeteer.

This is not the over-the-top kind of comedy you expect to see Jim Carrey playing. This is no Ace Ventura by any means. Despite the fact that he’s a grown man with 30 years of television experience he comes across with a youthful naïveté reminiscent of his character Truman Burbank in “The Truman Show“. As I said in the opening paragraph I’m not really sure if it’s a comedy or drama. Let’s call it a very dark comedy with ample doses of tragedy and pathos.

Carrey’s character is a complicated person and is well portrayed. The supporting cast is excellent as well and there are some other dark comic moments surrounding the supporting cast. But don’t expect a lot of laughs in a show whose primary theme is dealing with the death of a child.

I watched these episodes several days ago but have not bothered to write this review because I really wasn’t sure what to say about the show. I’m going to give it a very weak “I’m watching” rating mostly because I’m curious to see where the story will go. Don’t count that as a very ringing endorsement however. Check it out at your own peril.

ABC’s “Castaways” is not a “Survivor” clone. May be worth checking out.

ABCs new reality series “Castaways” on paper would appear to be a ripoff of CBS’ long-running reality competition show “Survivor” but apparent from the fact that people are stranded on an island, the shows could not be more different.

Castaways drops 12 people on a series of tiny islands in Indonesia separately from one another. It’s as if they were survivors of a ship wreck. They are dropped off in the ocean just offshore where they will find scattered supplies and luggage that may or may not be their own. They know that there are other contestants out there with them but they don’t know where they are or even how many others there are. It is up to each of them to decide to try to make it on their own or to seek out the other castaways.

There is no post like Jeff Probst on Survivor. There are no competitions or tribal councils to vote people off. Unlike the 39 day duration of Survivor, these participants have no idea how long they will be out there. You either survive to the end or you give up and they take you out of the game.It’s filmed documentary style and includes a peak at what the individuals lives are like in real life. It’s all about surviving and has nothing resembling the game show atmosphere of Survivor or Big Brother. I suppose if you were to compare it to any other reality show it would be more like Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid” without the ridiculous nudity.

The participants in some cases bear little resemblance to the typical Survivor contestant. For example the first person we meet is a food addict who weighs 390 pounds. Another 61-year-old woman struggles to care for her parents who have Alzheimer’s. Others such as X military man, an aspiring Nashville singer, a crab fisherman, seemed to be the more typical Survivor types.

it’s probably too soon to tell just how compelling or entertaining series will be but it’s definitely worth checking out. You can catch it Tuesday nights on ABC at 10 PM. The first episode which is already aired is available on demand. For now I’m giving it a rating of “I’m watching it

Fans of “Castle” or “The Mentalist” Should Enjoy “Deception”

Deception” is a new crime procedural from ABC that is a bit unoriginal but might be worth watching anyway. For me it seems like a cross between “Castle” and “The Mentalist”. The main character is Cameron Black who is a world-famous magician whose career is ruined when it is revealed that many of his tricks involve the use of his twin brother Jonathan. Both parts are played by Jack Cutmore-Scott who has been seen recently in Kingsman:The Secret Service and Dunkirk but not much else. The secret is revealed when his brother is in an automobile accident in which a woman is killed. The brother is arrested and jailed but the whole thing may have been a setup.

When Cameron hears the story that the FBI lost a key witness to a case when a private plane explodes in a hanger, he recognizes that in fact the plane did not explode. It was actually a re-creation of one of his illusions where he had caused a plane to disappear. He ends up becoming a consultant for the FBI

The mysterious illusionist who faked the plane exploding is also connected to his brother being framed. He uses his skills as an illusionist to help the FBI catch criminals at the same time working to prove his brother’s innocence.

Black is partnered with FBI agent Kay Daniels played by Ilfenesh Hadera who has been recently seen in Baywatch and Billions. Like “The Mentalist”, our hero uses his skills of deception to con suspects into revealing themselves. But the overall tone of the show is much more lighthearted. Where Patrick Jane was a somewhat mysterious and introverted brooding character, Black is much more gregarious and charismatic. The overall tone seems more like “Castle” in which the hijinks of the outside consultant are often played for laughs. It remains to be seen if Black and Daniels will develop the same sort of chemistry that we saw between Richard Castle and Detective Kate Beckett.

Unlike Castle and Patrick Jane, Black has a team of assistants who help him create the illusions. His main designer is Gunter Gustafsen played by British character actor Vinnie Jones. He is more often cast in the role of a tough guy criminal because of his appearance so it is interesting bit of casting to see him in a part where his big burly stature and rough appearance seem a bit out of place.

As I said in the beginning, there is nothing really new or original here but if you are a fan of “The Mentalist” and or “Castle” then you will probably enjoy this show as well. I’m giving it a very strong rating of “I’m watching it”.

“The Alienist” is Well Done Period Crime Drama

The Alienist” is a new period crime drama set in the late 19th century New York City. In that era, people who were mentally ill were thought to be alienated from their true selves so the word “alienist” was given to one who studies such conditions. In other words a psychologist or psychiatrist. Our main character is Dr. Laszlo Kriezier who is investigating a serial killer beginning with the murder of a boy prostitute.

Kriezier is played by Daniel Brühl who was recently seen in “The Zookeeper’s Wife” and “Captain America: Civil War”. He is assisted by his friend John Moore who is a newspaper illustrator and Sara Howard who is the secretary to police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt. Although fictionalized, her character is inspired by a real-life person who was the first female to be employed by the NYPD. She’s played by now grown child star Dakota Fanning. Moore is played by Luke Evans who is probably most famous playing Owen Shaw in the “Fast and Furious” film series.

Although this series is filmed in Budapest, they have gone to great lengths to re-create 19th-century New York in beautiful detail. The costumes, props, and sets are also top-notch. The performances are nuanced and intricate in the mystery of who is responsible for not only the killing of this boy prostitute from the opening episode but apparently this is just one of several children who’ve gone missing.

Like other period crime dramas such as “Copper” and “Ripper Street” we get a look at the early days of forensic science. Think of this as CSI New York set in the late 1800s. Like those other period crime dramas which I liked, I’m not sure how accurate they are vis-à-vis the level of forensic science available at the time. But it does add an interesting twist to an otherwise ordinary crime procedural.

We also get some insight into the state of psychology and psychiatry at the time with a little bit of preachy plot lines as our hero battles against prejudice over things like homosexuality, masturbation and other taboo subjects. If there’s anything unbelievable about the show is that the doctor has a very enlightened 21th century attitude towards the subjects. Of course we also get to see how female employees in a male dominated institution are treated in those days .

Overall it is well-written and well acted and it really transports yo might have u to this particular time and place while telling an interesting ongoing story. It runs for 10 episodes on TNT network. As of this writing 2 episodes have aired but are available on-demand. I’m giving it a solid “I’m watching” rating.

Bellevue is a Dark, Fascinating, Crime Story

A new crime drama titled “Bellevue” is now showing on WGN American channel. The show was originally produced by Canadian Broadcasting Company. It stars Anna Paquin as a police detective in a small town named Bellevue where everyone knows everyone else’s business. The season-long case we follow with her is the disappearance of a high school student who is a star hockey player. We quickly learn that the student also is dealing with gender identity issues.

This is Paquin’s first major role since the end of HBO’s hit series True Blood where she played Sookie Stackhouse.

Her character Detective Annie Ryder is haunted by the death of her father who was also a police detective. Throughout the opening episodes it becomes apparent that her current case is somehow related to a case of father had years ago investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl. Some of the story is told through flashbacks showing Ryder as a young girl. Pivotal to the story are games that she used to play with her father in which he would give her riddles to solve. Presumably this was to train her in analytical thinking hoping she would become a detective in his footsteps. Paquin’s performance in this show although very different from True Blood is very intense and compelling. I like this new character a lot.

Although there are no supernatural elements in the story it has a very eerie and haunting tone to it. In present day, someone is giving her riddles that are keys to solving this case. These riddles are in the same style as the ones she solved as a child.

The series is very dark in tone and is very reminiscent of one of my other favorite dark detective shows “The Killing”. Although not quite up to that high standard, I think fans of The Killing will enjoy this series as well. Paquin is believable and compelling in the role. It’s too early to tell after 2 episodes if all of the mystery and conspiracy buildup will payoff in the end but I hope it does. With a total of eight episodes it won’t take long to find out.

I’m giving it a rating of “I’m watching”. If this genre appeals to you, you should check it out.

Black Lightning is a relevant and worthwhile superhero

This week CW network introduced a new superhero show titled Black Lightning. It features an African-American superhero who is the title character. It’s part of the DC universe which is somewhat natural because they were pioneers in this field when they started Milestone Comics in 1993. Although Marvel had Luke Cage and Black Panther prior to this, they were written and drawn primarily by white artists and writers. The African-American community was pleased to finally have black superheroes but they were thought to initially be a bit inauthentic having been written by a bunch of old white guys. Although Black Lightning was not part of Milestone Comics you have to figure that it’s roots (pardon the expression) trace back to that endeavor. Marvel later did hire African-American writers and artists and some of them later worked on Black Lightning. But speaking of old white guys… that perfectly describes me. So I not going to be able to bring any sort of black perspective in this review.

Black Lightning is the alter ego of Jefferson Pierce. He is a former Olympic athlete who is now a high school principal in a predominantly black school called Garfield high school in the town of Freeland. He is divorced and has two daughters. The older daughter Anissa is a medical student who also teaches health at the high school part-time. The younger daughter Jennifer is a teenager and student at his high school. Pierce is played by Cress Williams who has been most recently seen in the medical drama Code Black but is more known for his role on Heart of Dixie. Anissa is played by Nafessa Williams (apparently no relation to Cress). She also appeared in Code Black as well as the recent Twin Peaks reboot. Jennifer is played by China Anne McClain who previously played in A.N.T. Farm and House of Payne. The ex-wife Lynn is played by Christine Adams who previously did nine episodes of Agents of SHIELD and was in the 2011 sci-fi series Terra Nova.

The setting is a modern day African-American community that is routinely harassed by a mostly white police force. In an opening scene the police pull over Jefferson, forced him out of his car and put him in handcuffs for suspicion of armed robbery. He complains this was the third time this month he had been harassed by police. When the store owner tried to identify him and said it wasn’t the guy they let him go. He complained “Was the suspect wearing a suit and tie and driving an old Volvo with his teenage daughters on board?” So as you can see, racial issues are going to be primary storylines but given the current atmosphere in this country they seem to be spot on.

We come to learn that Black Lightning is a vigilante who has been retired for nine years. But when Jeffersons daughters get kidnapped by ruthless gang members from a gang known as “The 100” he brings the old persona back again much to the delight of the African-American community pundits on TV. And much to the dismay of the mostly white Freeland Police Department.

As his name suggests, his superpower involves the ability to manipulate electricity. He can apparently either absorb electricity and/or disrupt electrical sources and then shoot lightning bolts out of his hands. He also can emit brief flashes of lightning when he punches someone. He has some sort of body armor superhero suit that was created by a tailor friend Peter Gambi played by veteran character actor James Remar. He was recently seen playing Frank Gordon father of Detective Jim Gordon on Gotham. Although he is a formidable fighter physically in addition to his superpowers, he is not invulnerable. After fight scenes it is typical to see him standing in the shower or soaking in a bathtub nursing his wounds. The dangerous lifestyle of a vigilante was responsible for the failure of his marriage. The fact that Black Lightning has not been seen in nine years has not been sufficient to heal the wounds to his marriage.

The drama from his activist older daughter, his rebellious younger daughter, his ex-wife with whom he tries to reunite, his role as a high school principal, and the needs of the community for a protector and inspirational hero all clash together to provide ample storytelling possibilities. The ruthless gang members which terrorize and control the community provide him with an incredibly dangerous arch nemesis. The racial tensions in the community provide extra peril to explore. In his role as being more vigilante than superhero all serve to complicate the situation.

The action and special effects are up to par with other CW superheroes. The acting and writing are adequate. And as mentioned in my earlier disclaimer I can’t really speak to authenticity of the African-American perspective because I’m an old white guy. But I’m also a bleeding heart liberal so I found the racial aspects of the story interesting and engaging without being too preachy.

I enjoyed the first episode and I think it has a lot of potential. I’m giving it a rating of “I’m watching it

Fox’s New “9-1-1” Shows Potential

Fox recently premiered a new action drama titled “9-1-1” featuring first responders from police, fire and paramedics as well as a 911 operator. It is set in Los Angeles. The series is created and produced by Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy who are most known for creating “American Horror Story”.

It features an ensemble cast and of course we get to see much of their family life and troubles in addition to the action of their day-to-day job. Angela Bassett plays police officer Athena Grant with a troubled marriage because her husband Michael just came out of the closet as gay. We get to see him reveal this fact to their 2 teenage children. He is played by Rockmond Dunbar who you may recall from the last few seasons of Sons of Anarchy where he played Police Lt. Eli Roosevelt or as “C-note” from Prison Break.

We also have Connie Britton as 911 operator Abby Clark. She struggles as a 42-year-old single woman who has to care for her mother with Alzheimer’s in her off-hours. She’s also frustrated by the fact that most of the time she never figures out how one of her calls turns out because once the police and/or fire arrive, they usually hang up on her.

Finally we have Peter Krause who plays fire Capt. Bobby Nash. Most recently he was seen as con man Christopher Hall in ABC’s “The Catch” (which I really miss). However he has better noun as Adam Braverman from “Parenthood“. Bobby has been back on the force only 18 months after being suspended for alcohol and drug use. His substance abuse he credits to the stress of the job. He goes to confession once a week to confess is drug and alcohol abuse even though he’s sober. He is also struggling to mentor a hotshot rookie firefighter who can’t keep his pants zipped and often gets it on with the women that he rescues.

For the most part it’s just your ordinary police, fire, paramedic drama with all of their emotional baggage of their family life thrown in. But there’s something appealing about this particular show that I can’t quite put my finger on. Minor spoilers here from the pilot episode.

The first few emergencies we see include a woman who jumps off a building and dies despite Bobby trying to talk her down. Someone flushes a newborn baby down the toilet and they have to cut a hole in the apartment wall beneath there to get the infant out of the drainpipe. We get a woman who is nearly strangled to death by her pet snake. But the most exciting sequence is a 10-year-old girl who is home alone while her mom went out to get fast food and burglars broke in. She hides in the bedroom while 911 operator Abby tries to figure out her location. A bit of plot driven technology in that the girl’s smart phone doesn’t have GPS (highly unlikely these days). The girl has recently moved into the house and doesn’t know her own address. They have to try to locate her without tipping off the intruders. It ends up turning into a harrowing hostage situation.

Something about the way each of these sequences is portrayed makes it for very compelling viewing. Normally I’m a little bit cynical about action shows that spend too much time dealing with people’s day-to-day lives (cough SEAL Team on CBS). But for some reason these stories don’t seem to get in the way. They actually help humanize and fill out what could otherwise be cliché stereotype characters.

I don’t watch Chicago Fire or Chicago PD so this may seem a little bit derivative of those. But overall I think it has lots of potential. It reminds me a lot of the old 1972 paramedic action drama “Emergency!” which I really enjoyed. For now I’m giving it a rating of “I’m watching it”. If your TV schedule isn’t already to full you might want to check it out.