9-1-1, Fox's new drama about first responders, just premiered, and with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's involvement, it's understandable that some of the more outlandish emergencies — including a newborn baby stuck in an apartment building's plumbing and a snake nearly strangling a woman to death — may seem like they were completely fictionalized from the minds of the people who crafted American Horror Story.
Even the harrowing promo art for 9-1-1 shows a rollercoaster stuck at the apex of a loop, with a man dangling from a car. However, Falchuk insists the inspiration for these emergencies comes from real life, specifically... viral videos.
"Honestly the internet is very helpful," Falchuk said. "Viral videos are the best." He continued, "We have a lot of writers who spend all day on YouTube."
Oliver Stark, who plays the horny firefighter Buck, read the pilot script and noticed that one of his big scenes involving a teenager who flushed a freshly born baby down the toilet in an attempt to get it out of her life seemed awfully familiar.
"I'd actually seen the YouTube video for it," Stark said. "So I wondered at that point if this was based on it or if it was purely coincidence. I went and saw that video in the production office and said, 'Oh, I've seen this, I remember this, I know what happens to this baby.'"
Murphy got interested in the idea of a drama following first responders from his own experience calling 911. He had to call in an emergency when his newborn baby stopped breathing, and was in awe of how the responders handled the situation.
"I was grateful to them, they saved my child's life," Murphy said. (His son is fine, btw.)
For Connie Britton, the heightened realism of the show brought something else to her mind. While researching the role by watching an actual 911 dispatcher on the job, she was amazed at how the operator was able to juggle so many things at once with such calm. In fact, the first day she tried to shoot a scene with her character and she saw the six intimidating computer screens that actual 911 operators use, she almost called her own emergency.
"I think I announced that I am not the right actor for this job," Britton said, terrified of bringing the whirlwind activity of the job to life.
Thankfully she stuck it out, because in the end she made it look easy.
9-1-1 airs Wednesday nights at 9/8c on Fox.