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‘9-1-1’ Review: First Responders Are People, Too

Latest from Ryan Murphy premieres tonight on Fox

Considering how many cop shows treat men and women in uniform with rarefied reverence, it’s nice that “9-1-1” just treats first responders like people.

“9-1-1,” the latest rule-breaking drama from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, takes it as a given that emergency workers deserve accolades for their work. But several of the show’s acts of heroism don’t resolve with a tidy confirmation that they’ve saved the day: We don’t always know if the person they’ve rescued lives or dies in the hospital, because the rescuers don’t know, either.

“It’s probably for the best that I usually don’t know how it all ends,” says Connie Britton’s dispatch monitor Abby Clark, noting that many people in trouble hang up as soon as help arrives.

Like many of the characters, she has problems of her own: She’s more comfortable navigating police officers and firefighters to a home invasion than in coping with her mom’s Alzheimer’s.

Angela Bassett, meanwhile, plays a hard-nosed cop who has just learned her husband is gay. Peter Krause is a chief firefighter who has been sober for years, and is trying to stay that way.

It’s unclear whether all the characters will be interesting long term — the show needs to figure out what to do, for example, with Oliver Stark’s sex-driven hothead. But the characters get more backstory in the pilot episode made available for review than some “Law & Order” characters have ever received.

And the show has other stars: the emergencies themselves. Each of the three in the pilot episode is introduced like a graphic on the local evening news, with an audio wave and subtitles adorning each call to Britton’s operator.

They range from gruesome to quirky to dangerous. One call involves rescuing a woman from being strangled by one of several massive snakes freely roaming her home. Instead of giving the snakes the over-stylized, “CSI” treatment, “9-1-1” is more interested in seeing how the characters react.

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