'9-1-1: Lone Star' review: Gets it half right from the start


'Listen, we need some kind of balance for this partnership to work. So, your missing sister storyline takes odd-numbered episodes and the illness I'm hiding from the crew gets the even ones, deal?' Photos: Fox

We just can't get enough disaster on TV, not when it's served up with juicy trimmings of character-driven drama and topped off with a little mound of soap (opera) suds.

And if one series like, say, the cop-firefighter-dispatcher success 9-1-1 hits the spot with fans of that sort of offering, well, why not have two?

So it is that we find ourselves whisked away to Austin, Texas, for 9-1-1: Lone Star (Texas' nickname being the Lone Star state, as it was once an independent republic), a spin-off that features the same winning formula and a lot more besides. Maybe too much more.

The premise goes like this: Austin's Firehouse 126 suffers a horrific loss, losing all its firefighters but one.

To rebuild it, the city authorities seek out New York fire captain Owen Strand (Rob Lowe), the only man to have done just that when he lost his whole crew in the 9/11 attacks.

Long story short, the initially reluctant Owen packs up and relocates to Austin with his son TK (Ronen Rubinstein), also a firefighter, in tow. Owen is hiding an illness from TK, who is himself recovering from an emotionally and physically traumatic experience.

With the operative word given by his superiors being "inclusive", Owen sets about building a team that – well, let's just say he doesn't disobey that order.

'Who would've thought that, for a series set in Texas, the redneck would end up being the minority on the show?''Who would've thought that, for a series set in Texas, the redneck would end up being the minority on the show?'

In no time at all, he gets hijab-wearing YouTube sensation Marjan Marwani (Natacha Karam), trans firefighter/paramedic Paul Strickland (Brian Michael Smith) and dyslexic immigrant Mateo Chavez (Julian Works) on board.

And by the time the 126's sole surviving original member, Judd Ryder (True Blood's Jim Parrack), comes back to work, it dawns on you that this self-avowed redneck is the minority on the crew. In Texas.

As for Owen, well, I'm beginning to think only Rob Lowe could pull off the character's throwback metrosexual traits – like in one hilarious scene where he introduces his team to the benefits of moisturiser.

Rounding out the gang, more or less, are Judd's 9-1-1 dispatcher wife Grace (Sierra McClain), who is agonising over her husband's internalised agony; and Emergency Medical Services captain Michelle Blake (Liv Tyler), whose backstory involves a missing sister and the man she thinks murdered her sibling.

It's a packed firehouse, if not exactly with warm bodies then certainly with neuroses, anxiety and the potential for high drama.

And make no mistake, the showrunners/producing team (including Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear from the original, as well as Lowe and 9-1-1 star Angela Bassett) clearly intend to put everyone through the wringer here.

There's Owen's illness, TK's emotional issues, Michelle's rage, Marjan, Mateo and Paul's respective struggles to fit in – and again, incongruously and unexpectedly, it seems to be Judd's grief and PTSD that provide the most honest and spontaneous of the show's emo moments.

These, of course, jostle for attention with but often have to take a back seat to the assorted emergencies and disasters that keep the 126th busy.

Just five episodes in and I've been, erm,"treated" to bizarre falls, an eating contest gone horribly wrong, a fire at a bull semen storage facility, tornadoes and their trail of havoc, a brawl at a male stripper club, and the weaponisation of an arthritis patient.

Yes, really.

'Just because this show is on Disney+ doesn't mean I signed up to fly around like those Marvel heroes, dammit.''Just because this show is on Disney+ doesn't mean I signed up to fly around like those Marvel heroes, dammit.'

Face it. As much Lowe, Tyler and Co. put in solid showings shouldering the enormous burdens the creative team has placed on their shoulders, it's the plethora of far-out emergencies that really keep us tuning in (or swiping to the next episode).

Halfway through its debut season, I'm already convinced that the showrunners have recaptured this aspect of 9-1-1's winning formula quite early on.

As for whether or not Lone Star's broad spectrum of characters can live up to all the diversity and inclusiveness that seems a little forced, all I can say is, they shouldn't really have to try that hard.

Seasons One and Two of 9-1-1: Lone Star are available on Disney+ Hotstar.

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