USA TODAY International Edition
‘ 9- 1- 1’ crossover bridges LA and Austin
Fox’s “9- 1- 1” shows are proving to be as formidable a team as the firefighters, paramedics and police who populate them.
Both first responder dramas already were ratings hits, but they may be primed for greater success since “9- 1- 1” and “9- 1- 1: Lone Star” are now paired back to back on Mondays ( 8 and 9 EST/ PST). The Jan. 18 premieres of fourthseason “9- 1- 1” and second- season “Lone Star” gave Fox its best Monday in nearly five years, with an average of 10.2 million viewers counting delayed viewing. It marked the biggest outing yet for “Lone Star” and the best for “91- 1” since the fall 2019 tsunami story.
The Ryan Murphy- produced dramas and their signature “9- 1- 1. What’s your emergency?” dispatchers’ line go a step further Monday with their first crossover episodes. Late in the “9- 1- 1” installment, firefighters Evan “Buck” Buckley ( Oliver Stark) and Eddie Diaz ( Ryan Guzman) and paramedic Henrietta “Hen” Wilson ( Aisha Hinds) from Los Angeles’ 118 unit head to Texas to help Capt. Owen Strand ( Rob Lowe) and his Austin- based “Lone Star” crew battle a wildfire 200 miles from the Texas capital.
The action continues on “Lone Star.”
“When the 118 ( fire engine) arrives and you see the logo, you’re like, ‘ Yeah!’ ” says Lowe, who was reminded of the time firefighters from around the country camped out at his home after wildfires and mudslides devastated Santa Barbara County in 2018.
“What is so moving about the crossover is what was moving about living
through ( a similar disaster). You look out and see the trucks: This one’s from San Francisco, this one’s from Texas, this one’s from Washington state. People from all over the country show up and become a family when you need them to be.”
Because the “Lone Star” episode, “Hold the Line,” focuses on one emergency rather than several, it allows more time to explore characters as they interact with first responders outside their firehouse.
There’s comedy – Buck is a fanboy of “Lone Star” social media star Marjan Marwani ( Natacha Karam) – and drama, as Hen and Owen, trapped behind the fire line, can talk freely to someone who understands the job’s dangers but isn’t part of their firehouse family, Hinds says.
“They share some things and were able to forge a safe space where each of them could be vulnerable, which is something they don’t have many opportunities” to do, she says. “You see a very human side of them fighting for each other’s life and then activating their extended family, their teams, and having them work together ( in a) savemom- and- dad kind of thing. It was really beautiful.”
Executive producer Tim Minear, who oversees both shows, wanted to get “Lone Star” and its characters established in its 10- episode first season, but he was “thrilled” to do a crossover in an “all- barrels- blazing” return to a new season both delayed and influenced by the COVID- 19 pandemic.
“We started with the dam breaking
on ‘ 9- 1- 1,’ which was a little bit of a metaphor for how we all feel about the last year. Like, as soon as you feel you can take one step outside, your house is going to fall down and the dam is going to break. And, with the lava ( episode) on ‘ Lone Star,’ it’s like the world became more ( dangerous) than my shows, so I had to try to push the shows further.”
Although wildfires are more associated with the California setting of “91- 1,” they happen in Texas, too. ( Both series are filmed in L. A.)
The two series, which give Fox a franchise to rival NBC’s “Chicago” and CBS’ “NCIS” and “FBI,” have been a boon to the network, Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn says.
On premiere night, “hitting around 10 million viewers is really exciting, and it shows that if you have the right creators with the right characterdriven series, broadcast ( television) is still a great way to reach a big audience. We’re really happy,” he says.
Murphy initially talked about “9- 1- 1” as more than one series, Thorn says, and the budding franchise is paying off. But it’s too soon to consider any more spinoffs in a franchise launched before Murphy signed his giant exclusive Netflix deal, making it the only way for Fox to launch new shows from the megaproducer.
“Right now, our focus is on these two,” Thorn says. “They’re two of the most ambitious shows to produce on television. So, we’re going to make these great and then revisit it and see if there’s any other opportunities down the line.”
Among big “Lone Star” changes this season: The departure of Liv Tyler, who lives in England, because of travel restrictions, and the arrival of Gina Torres as paramedic Captain Tommy Vega.
Owen has rekindled his relationship with ex- wife Gwyneth ( new cast member Lisa Edelstein) as his cancer went into remission.
“Owen is on the mend, but he’s about to have another big life moment to deal with” that involves Gwyneth, Lowe teases. “That relationship is a whole rich area.”