FOX TV LAUNCHES “9-1-1” DRAMA AND “LA TO VEGAS” COMEDY
A TV Review by Tim Riley
“LA TO VEGAS” and “9-1-1” ON FOX NETWORK The recent blockbuster sale of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox’s entertainment and TV assets to Disney has a price tag of roughly $52 billion dollars, which is enough to rival or surpass the GDP of many countries.
Just for fun, looking up the GDP rankings of nations as reported by the International Monetary Fund, this Disney-Fox deal is approximately equal to the total market value of all final goods and services produced in countries like Bulgaria, Tanzania and Croatia.
There is a lot of speculation about the future of the network, but for now FOX is launching new mid-season series, beginning with the air travel workplace comedy “LA to Vegas” and the first responder drama “9-1-1,” with the latter, most likely, closer to real life.
Traveling on commercial flights is more of a chore to be endured than something enjoyable. This is particularly true if you happen to be on United Airlines, which seems to be striving for unpleasant customer relations according to recent news reports and even my own personal experience.
“LA to Vegas,” situated almost entirely aboard Jackpot Airlines’ weekend trips to Sin City, is putting fun back into air travel, even if narcissistic Captain Dave (Dylan McDermott) winks about consuming adult beverages before takeoff.
McDermott’s boozy, retrograde character is a great source of comedic material, especially in the third episode when his Vegas run is challenged by Captain Steve (Dermot Mulroney), another preening showboat with greater career prestige but not a better mustache than Captain Dave’s.
As to be expected in this kind of venture, the passengers are an eccentric bunch, with Peter Stormare taking top honors as inveterate gambler Artem who serves as the airline’s unofficial bookie and Olivia Macklin’s sweet-natured Nichole working as a part-time stripper in Vegas.
Somewhat more grounded is long-suffering flight attendant Ronnie (Kim Matula), who might have a thing going with flight regular Colin (Ed Weeks). Meanwhile, attendant Bernard (Nathan Lee Graham), always upbeat, thinks there is nothing more magical than the LA-to-Vegas weekend route.
As “LA to Vegas” takes flight for its series run, there is plenty of fun to be had here, with McDermott’s Captain Dave shining broadly through his comedic paces and the rest of the gang delivering much humor.
According to the FOX network’s website, the new drama series “9-1-1,” about the high-pressure experiences of Los Angeles police, paramedics and firefighters who are thrust into shocking situations, is based on real-life encounters.
If that’s truly the case, then what is depicted in the first episode of this series, from the prolific creators and writers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, bounces from the heart-stopping disturbing to darkly bizarre and exotic.
Center stage are Angela Bassett as the blunt LAPD Detective Athena Grant, juggling a tough job with her own family drama, and Peter Krause as the recovering alcoholic senior firefighter Bobby Nash, who rides hard on reckless rookie Buck (Oliver Stark).
Another pivotal character is Connie Britton’s Abby Clark, dispatcher at the 9-1-1 phone center, whose signature answer of “9-1-1, what’s your emergency” to every distress call is the key to setting in motion any emergency team response.
The first episode has so many emergencies, ranging from a little girl trying to evade vicious home invaders to a young woman being strangled by her pet snake and to yet another person threatening to jump from a rooftop, they could fill a few hours of a Dick Wolf production.
Speaking of the prolific Dick Wolf, he’s got three series running on NBC, “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med.” It would seem that “9-1-1” strives to cram all of these Wolf dramas into one tidy package, which means a lot of overlapping threads in this formulaic adventure.
As if the jobs of these responders are not demanding enough, everyone is grappling with personal dramas as well. For Detective Grant, it just happens that her husband (Rockmond Dunbar) unloads a shocking revelation at the family breakfast.
The irrepressible firefighter Buck, who violates the rules by using the fire truck for sexual trysts, finds himself fired by his disapproving superior Bobby Nash, only to fall back into good graces by helping the police to save the life of a crime victim.
Dispatcher Abby Clark handles each emergency call with care and understanding to be sure the appropriate help is rendered, and her calm demeanor belies the inner turmoil of having to cope with her ailing mother’s serious medical issues.
For fireman Bobby Nash, the marvel is that he’s pulled his life back together despite the pressure of encountering people having the worst days of their entire lives. Moreover, he has to supervise an odd mix of firefighters coping with their own quirks.
“9-1-1,” may be a bit too mechanical for the long haul, but with police, medical and firefighting actors in the mix, there is enough dramatic juggling going on that the series is at least worth a look.