Rob Lowe Giving a Frozen Man CPR on ‘911 Lone Star’ Is Traumatizing TV newsusface

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Sometimes, when facing the flatlining blandness of content released right now, I need to feel alive again. So I turn to my defibrillator shows, my bonkers revitalizers and gonzo resuscitators. I am speaking, of course, of the heroically batshit twin “procedural disaster” series—I truly don’t know how else to classify them—9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star.

It seems that, this week, many of you caught on to what I’ve known for years now: There is no better way to brighten up an exasperating, exhausting week than to drop in and watch an episode of one of these FOX dramas. And by “brighten it up,” I of course mean “set off several dozen sticks of dynamite in the middle of a fireworks warehouse down the road from a spotlight testing facility.” If you’ve seen the Rob Lowe clip from Lone Star that went viral, you understand that this is no understatement.

In it, Lowe, who plays a firefighter captain in the series, pulls a man out of a cryotherapy machine, which has seemed to freeze his body after the temperature plummeted and he was left in it for too long. (Mr. Freeze is also the husband of the woman that Lowe’s character had been in a steamy relationship, before he learned earlier in the episode that she was married, though “open.”)

He inexplicably begins chest compressions on the lifeless body, but—trigger warning for gross stuff!—the chest cracks like ice when he pushes down on it, his hands plummeting into the man’s rib cage and popsicle organs. (Picture what happens when you step on a frozen puddle in winter.)

He looks up in shock at what just happened. A panicked EMT rushes over and—this is what really broke me—puts her stethoscope onto the body to confirm that the man is indeed dead. People have been more useful blowing at a burning building with their mouths, trying to put out the fire like it’s a birthday candle.

What I’ve learned from the clip is that my beloved 9-1-1 franchise hasn’t lost its touch, and, also, you’re all apparently brand new here.

Since the original 9-1-1 series premiered in 2018 (the Lone Star spin-off launched in 2020), it has been the Holy Grail of disaster TV. Some might say it is audaciously creative in this regard (me); others might say it is ludicrously so (boring haters). It has reliably been some of the most entertaining television I’ve consumed over these last few years.

It is from the mind of Ryan Murphy, proving how fun it is to infuse the formulaic procedural genre with his maximalist carnival of wild and unapologetic ideas. In the early episodes of Season 1, emergency responders were called to incidents in which a mother flushed her baby down the toilet, or a reptile fetishist who was being strangled by one of her snakes.

This is the kind of show that inspires round-ups of the wildest moments from over the years (like, for example, Riverdale). A bouncy house has flown away in a strong gust of wind with someone inside. An aspiring influencer got his head stuck in cement…inside of a microwave. A woman was hit by a meteor.

Do not be confused: I do not regularly watch these series. But that’s part of what makes me cherish them so. During a bleak week, like one in which I can’t bear to read one more word about Succession and whether that guy’s name was crossed out or underlined, I can pop on one of my 9-1-1’s and know I am going to be met with preposterous delight, without ever feeling lost.

Inspired by the viral Lone Star clip of human crushed ice, I put on the most recent episode of O.G. 9-1-1 too, to check in on what’s happening there. I was not disappointed.

I was greeted by Jennifer Love Hewitt, who plays a dispatcher, calming down a music student who was having a panic attack by singing to him, loudly and in the middle of her dispatch office, Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.” He eventually joined in and started breathing again. Everyone at the office clapped for her. I cried a little. Everything about the experience was ridiculous. Thank God (Ryan Murphy) for it.

TV has a long history of these kinds of series, with big, marketable Disasters of the Week. It’s well known, at this point, that each doctor at the Grey’s Anatomy hospital has nine lives, like a cat. The ER helicopter crash is foundational to me. The plunge down the elevator shaft in L.A. Law! A classic! (I will not be citing older examples, as to protect my delusion of youth.)

But these 9-1-1 shows aren’t only about these silly catastrophes. Angela Bassett is starring in 9-1-1, folks. Peter Krause plays her husband. Rob Lowe leads Lone Star. Connie Britton predated Jennifer Love Hewitt’s tenure in the dispatch office. There is acting on these series. The emotional stakes on them are as intense as the action—and also surprisingly grounded and relatable.

In the grand Murphy tradition, they are also exceptionally diverse when it comes to race and sexual orientation—and matter-of-fact about it, too. When battling earthquakes and pageant moms, who has the time to spar about identity? It’s all so refreshing.

So to everyone who has discovered the joy of these series through a man’s shattered frozen chest, I say: Welcome.

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