Is 9-1-1 Worth It Without Connie Britton?

Photo: FOX/Getty Images.
What is Fox first responder drama 9-1-1 like without Connie Britton's character? Don't worry: It's still bananas as ever. On Sunday, Ryan Murphy's procedural returned for its sophomore season, unfortunately missing one familiar face. While Britton will reprise her first season role from Murphy's FX flagship American Horror Story on the show's eighth installment, 9-1-1 telephone operator Abby Clarke made good on her promise to leave Los Angeles behind and have a long adventure in Ireland. Fortunately, someone who won't disrupt a possible rekindling between Buck (Oliver Stark) and Abby has slipped on the latter's headset.
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Meet Maddie, played by someone else with an extraordinary head of hair: Jennifer Love Hewitt. Yes, the one-time "Ghost Whisperer" is back on television, and not only is Hewitt's Maddie taking over Abby's job — she's also staying in her apartment. (It's a very convenient way to reuse a set that, let's be honest, would have been pretty annoying to strip if Fox ends up making a deal with Britton for season 3. I'm still holding out hope here!)
Abby will, of course, be missed, but Hewitt's Maddie (whose name probably should have been a liiiiiittle less close to "Abby") has her own stuff going on, and it's equally as intriguing. While Abby's character arc was about finding herself after taking care of her mom for so long, what Maddie needs is a safe place to land. Maddie is running away from what is soon revealed to be an abusive husband — one who threatened to kill her. That's what this big move is all about: Making sure her ex can't find her, even though a scary phone call suggests he could.
Though Maddie hasn't seen her baby bro Buck in years, she needs him now more than ever. So, when he suggests that she step into Abby's role — why not?
Unfortunately for Maddie, it's a very bad time to move to Los Angeles: The big earthquake long promised to Angelenos hits 9-1-1 at the end of the episode. For a crew that already has had to deal with things like a bottle of hot sauce lodged in a restaurant worker's neck and a baby stuck in a pipe, one can only guess that the earthquake really amps up the problems they will have to deal with.
Can Maddie keep her cool under pressure? Will Hewitt deliver as soothing a tone as Britton did while telling people in oh-my-God-how-is-this-happening situations to stay calm? We'll have to wait and see how Maddie handles that headset, but I'm optimistic that she'll become as big a fan favorite should she, and everyone else, survive this pending natural disaster.
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