Even as the days get longer and our parents get vaccine appointments, we still have many hours to fill until we can, you know, do things with people again.
At this stage in the pandemic, I’ve seen all 16 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve re-watched The West Wing. I did Derry Girls three times, crack crack crack.
I know a good binge, and I’m here to tell you – proselytize! — that the next bingeworthy shows are 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lonestar. Original flavor and Texas BBQ!
My cousin/EMT/paramedic/Bigfoot Hunters fan turned me onto 9-1-1 with the following disclaimer: they are not realistic, but they are insane. Seems to fit the current zeitgeist.
How to describe these shows? From the marketing, you’d think they were standard cop-aganda, a la Chicago Fire or Blue Bloods. A show where state authority of the state is never questioned, where the characters have moral failings for about three minutes each episode, and where everything is viewed from a white male gaze. And you’d be sort of right. And also very wrong.
First, the 9-1-1 universe is a Ryan Murphy production. The shows brim with a campy, optimistic absurdity, grounded in enough “real life” to make you feel like there are actual stakes.
In the first season of 9-1-1: Original Flavor, we meet Peter Krause’s Bobby Nash. Bobby is a craggy yet genial leader of men who uses his local Catholic Church confessional to admit that he was a heroin addict who started a space heater fire which killed a hundred people, including his delicate blond family. That’s … a lot.
Bobby keeps a tiny book where he writes down all the people he saves from car accidents, shark attacks (!), and palm trees (!!), planning to kill himself when he has “balanced his ledger.” That is pathos akin to the darkness of a Showtime Original Series.
The show then cuts to a scene where a woman’s head must be extricated from a truck muffler, which she placed there as a bet. BECAUSE THIS SHOW IS BONKERS.
For all our heaviness, and baggage that comes with being human, life is but a sequence of News of the Weird articles interspersed with station house family-style dinner.
Both flavors — but especially Lonestar — have some of the most diverse ensembles on network TV. Lonestar’s Austin, Texas, fire station is populated by a Dreamer probie, a Black transman, a badass hjabi, a gay man with mental health issues, Holt from True Blood, and Rob Lowe as a vain 9/11 first responder with cancer. The first thing I’m doing after I get my vaccine is going to a dinner party with this gaggle.
On 9-1-1, the typical “sideshow” secondary characters get their own universe, where they get to be the heroes.
The Original flavor also features Angela Basset as Athena Grant. Angela gets the best monologues, and through her POV, the show interrogates what it’s like to be a Black woman police officer at this moment, instead of tripping over itself on the thin blue line.
The showrunners and writers are not divorced from our current political reality. Of course, that reality exists in a world where a man chokes because a fish squirms down his throat. We have introspection, even as a himbo firefighter begins a sentence with “If the tsunami taught me anything . . . ” Nothing evokes the political tumult of today like a woman escaping a lava flow and fending off scorpions with a bottle of cilantro vinaigrette.
We have many contactless and empty hours ahead of us. No offense to Joe Biden, who is doing the best he can. While you wait for your shot of Moderna goodness, 9-1-1 is here to fill your time with weirdness.
New episodes of 9-1-1 and Lonestar air Monday nights on Fox. You can binge the series on Hulu.
This post was written by Meredith. Meredith loves underdogs, extremely long books, and putting glitter on everything. A Wholigan rising with a moon in Keep It, she loves enjoying and figuring out why we enjoy pop culture so much. One day she’ll find someone to discuss the Vorkosigan saga with, but until then she’ll just re-watch Ted Lasso. Follow her on Twitter at @coolstorymere and Instagram at @cool.story.mere