Sunday, June 18, 2023

LA Fire & Rescue, on NBC

Los Angeles is an unusually hard city for firefighters. The climate is dry, the winds frequently shift, and crime is sky-high. Station 16 in Watts typically responds to very different calls than Station 37 in Palmdale, surrounding by highly combustible desert brush. However, every station keeps incredibly busy. At least that provides a lot of material for the new reality series LA Fire & Rescue, co-executive produced by Dick Wolf, which premieres this Wednesday on NBC.

The format is recognizable. It is basically
Cops, without cops. Of course, the firefighters work closely with the LAPD and Sheriff’s Department, but the series does its best to minimize the presence of lawmen. In this case, viewers also see a little bit of the firefighters’ personal lives and personalities. Captain Dan Olivas maybe gets the most screentime in the first three episodes (provided for review), because of the way he enjoys joshing with his station-mates at the 16—and getting joshed right back. It is also largely the same at home, with his big, loving family, including a grown son currently at the fire academy.

Throughout the first two episodes, viewers see how rampant crime makes their jobs so much more difficult. In the opener, “Best Job in the World,” Station 16 responds to a gas station fire, where a car involved in a high-speed police chase took out a live gas pump. Then, in the second episode, “Three Alarm,” the same station must tend to a man suffering head trauma resulting from a random attack with a lead pipe.

Station 16 certainly gets plenty of work, but Station 41 in Compton out-paces them for title of LA’s busiest station. That is why they have never been assigned a “boot” (probationary officer still completing training), until now. On her first shift, she responded to twenty-six calls. Fortunately, she has a conscientious mentor in Captain Scott Woods.

LA Fire & Rescue certainly gives viewers a renewed appreciation for first responders. Usually, there is one major emergency teased throughout the show, supplemented by several serious, but less potentially catastrophic (from a civic perspective) calls to illustrate the department’s everyday life saving work.

The all-black Station 172 in Inglewood probably has the distinction of catching the scariest call of the first three episodes, getting called to a three-alarm fire outside their zone, where flames are raging around a warehouse full of alcohol-based hand-sanitizer. The flames they face look like something out of the movie
Backdraft. Air Operations are seen working with the Palmdale station during the first episode, but there is more promised air-time for them in future episodes, along with the hardly seen (so far) lifeguards, who are also part of the department.

If you like this sort of reality show,
LA Fire & Rescue delivers exactly the kind of professional working-week heroics you would hope for. The participating first-responders were shrewdly selected, because they all have a lot of on-screen charisma. A lot of lives are saved during each show which is definitely saying something. Each episode ends with a pitch for donations to to help them do their jobs better. (LA county could also help them by voting out the current DA, who refuses to prosecute criminals.) Recommended for fans of firefighters and reality television about real “reality” (as opposed to weirdos or scandalous minor celebrities), LA Fire & Rescue starts Wednesday (6/21) and streams the next day on Peacock.