‘9-1-1′ can be dopey, but I love it. It’s changing networks this week.


ABC’s “9-1-1″ is exciting, engaging, often gross to watch and not infrequently just plain dumb. I love it.

Not everything has to be “Masterpiece Theatre.” There’s something to be said for a show that’s entertaining, in spite of (if not because of) how dumb it can be at times. Not that the rescues, which are often based on real-life events, are dumb, but the melodrama is sometimes, well, sort of stupid.

Firefighter Buck Buckley (Oliver Stark) getting struck by lightning and rendered temporarily dead midway through the most recent season is one thing. Buck wandering around the hospital as sort of a ghost while he was in a coma was something else. Something dopey.

Peter Krause, who stars as LAFD Captain Bobby Nash, said “9-1-1″ is a “comic book about first responders come to life.” That’s accurate and not condescending toward his own show, which features firefighters, paramedics, police officers and 911 call center staffers dealing with all sorts of emergencies.

The thing about “9-1-1″ is that if you aren’t crazy about one episode, next week’s may be entirely different.

“It can be a rom-com. It can be a soap, It can be satire. It can be a heartbreaking melodrama,” said executive producer/showrunner Tim Minear. “It can be all of those things in the same episode, right? So I’ve had the most fun on this show because I can do a heist one week, and then I can do a woman in peril story with Maddie [Jennifer Love Hewitt] having to escape her abusive husband. … The canvas on this show is absolutely unlimited.”

The Season 7 premiere (Thursday, 7 p.m., ABC/Channel 4) is actually a take-off on “The Poseidon Adventure,” complete with a capsizing cruise ship. “We’re doing an absolute tribute to Irwin Allen, [the producer of “Poseidon” and “The Towering Inferno,”] in the opening minutes of the episode,” said Minear.

(Disney) “9-1-1” returns for Season 7 on Thursday, March 14, at 7 p.m. on ABC/Channel 4.

Changing channels

That’s not a typo above. After six seasons and 96 episodes on Fox, when “9-1-1″ returns on Thursday, it will be on ABC.

Why? Money. Of course. Pretty much everything on television is about money. And mostly because Disney bought 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion in 2019.

• In January 2018, when “9-1-1″ premiered, Fox owned the production company (20th Television) behind it. Fox produced, distributed and aired the show on the Fox broadcast network — a profitable business model.

• In 2019, Disney completed its purchase of most of Fox, including its TV and movie studios. Disney became the producer of “9-1-1,” and the Fox network (which was not sold to Disney) had a contract for the first six seasons of “9-1-1.”

• At the end of Season 6, Disney-owned 20th Television wanted Fox to pay more for “9-1-1.” Financial details were not announced, but the show reportedly costs $9 million per episode to produce. Fox declined.

Rob Wade, the CEO of Fox Entertainment, told journalists “that the business model wasn’t right for us, and that 20th TV would take the show back.” And air it on Disney-owned ABC.

The Fox broadcast network will take a hit to its ratings and its advertising revenue — “9-1-1″ averaged more than 7 million viewers last season; it was Fox’s most-watched show and No. 21 overall. But there was no upside to airing the show at a loss when there were no backside profits.

It’s a little bit weird because the spinoff series “9-1-1: Lonestar” will continue to air on Fox. (Season 5 is slated to begin airing in the fall.) “Lone Star” averaged 5.6 million viewers during the 2022-23 season, Fox’s No. 2 show and No. 38 overall.

The chances of any future crossovers between the two shows, at least while “Lone Star” remains on Fox, are slim to none. That’s no great loss.

(Justin Stephens | Disney) ABC’s “9-1-1” stars Oliver Stark as Evan “Buck” Buckley, Jennifer Love Hewitt as Maddie Kendall, Kenneth Choi as Howie “Chimney” Han, Angela Bassett as Athena Grant, Peter Krause as Bobby Nash, Aisha Hinds as Henrietta “Hen” Wilson, Gavin McHugh as Christopher Diaz, and Ryan Guzman as Eddie Diaz.

Still the same show

Although the show has changed networks, nothing else has changed for “9-1-1.” It’s even still shooting on the Fox backlot, which was not part of the sale to Disney. “It feels a lot the same so far,” said Angela Bassett, who stars as LAPD Sgt. Athena Grant.

But Minear said there is some added excitement about moving to a new home.

“Fox was great for us for many years,” he said. “The thing that’s exciting about ABC is it feels like the first year of the show, in a lot of ways. Like, the enthusiasm at the network is through the roof. … They already love the show. So I just think it’s a shot in the arm for all of us.”

Harder than staging a tsunami

Although $9 million is a healthy TV budget, it’s not a lot to be shooting what are essentially disaster movies — including an earthquake, a flood, a blackout, and a tsunami, in addition to the weekly rescues.

And this season’s “Poseidon Adventure” episodes were the toughest yet. “The tsunami that took out the Santa Monica Pier was weirdly easier to produce than a capsized cruise ship,” Minear said. He “almost” had a ship to shoot on, “and then the cruise ship company was, like, ‘We’ll let you use our cruise ship but nothing bad can happen.’” His response: “Have you seen the show?”

According to Minear, the cruise ship company (which he did not name) told him, “‘Well, you can capsize it, blow a hole in it, sink it, as long as at the end we see it’s fine. And then they sail off,’” he said. “I’m, like, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’”

(Photo courtesy of Jack Zeman/Fox) Oliver Stark and Ryan Guzman star in “9-1-1.”

Almost a firefighter?

Having failed to find much of any acting roles in Hollywood after he was written out of AMC’s “Into the Badlands” four episodes into Season 2, Stark was seriously contemplating returning to his native London in 2017. “Yeah, I was running out of money,” he said. “So I may have had to have gone back to England.”

He had a visa that allowed him to work as a performer, but he used his “last little bit of money to apply for my green card. And once I had a green card, a firefighter was a possible career choice for me. And then this came along, which is better. I like this.”

Speaking of soap opera

After several seasons of melodrama surrounding Maddie (Hewitt) and Chimney (Kenneth Choi), the two often star-crossed lovers are finally going to walk down the aisle in Season 7.

“We’re going to get friggin’ married,” Choi said. “Finally.”

“Maddie and Chimney deserve it, I think,” Hewitt added. “They’ve been through too much.”

“They deserve happiness,” Choi said.

“And it’s going to go really smooth,” Minear said, sarcastically. Because, of course, a show in which all the characters live happily ever after is boring.

“You see the fans going, ‘Why can’t they be happy?’” Minear said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, you don’t want to see them on the show anymore is what you’re saying?’”

(Chris Willard | Disney) Angela Bassett and Peter Krause in the Season 7 premiere of “9-1-1.”

Not dead yet

And then there was the time that Minnear forgot to tell Ryan Guzman that, although his character — firefighter Eddie Diaz — gets shot in a script he’d just received, he would survive his wound.

“And at the end of the script, it said Eddie gets shot, and that was it,” Guzman said. “And I was curious. I had to call Tim up. I’m like, “Where’s this going, man? Am I coming back, because my contract says one more year, right? … Do I need to call my lawyer?”

As Minear remembered it, he told Guzman “that you were just too pretty to die. Like, why would you worry?”

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