When I saw the first promo for 9-1-1: Lone Star, aka the latest milestone in Ryan Murphy’s world domination, I had questions. Why is Rob Lowe still relevant? Who thought he could play a believable firefighter? Has Ryan Murphy ever seen any Rob Lowe movies? But then I decided to give it a shot. As a lifelong Texan, I was intrigued. I wanted to know how Murphy and co. would portray my beloved home state. Don’t get me wrong: I am no taste arbiter for all things Texas. But I know a cliché-ridden show when I see one, and I’ve heard enough Texas stereotypes to know when someone making a show or movie set in the Lone Star State is simply phoning it in. I had to watch 9-1-1: Lone Star, because it was my duty as a gunslinging, boot-wearing, horse-riding cowboy to see how it portrayed my home. This was going to be fun.
Here are the most stereotypically “Texan” things that happen on a show created by people who have clearly never spent time outside the Four Seasons in Austin.
The first scene in Texas is a tracking shot of an expansive desert
In the geographically ridiculous world of 9-1-1: Lone Star, Rob Lowe plays a firefighter recruited by the Department of Justice (yes, you read that right) to lead Ladder 126, an Austin-based unit recently shattered by a tragedy that killed every firefighter but one. When Lowe’s character (I didn’t bother learning his name, because I it was probably ridiculous) takes the job, he traverses the 1,742 miles from New York City to Austin through nothing but pure, dust-covered, rough-and-tumble desert. Country music is playing in the background (because of course it is) and the journey takes roughly five seconds. Surprisingly, the music supervisor chose a Brothers Osborne song to score this journey instead a five-second sound bite wherein Burton Gilliam asks, via voiceover, “What has this city slicker gotten himself into?!”
Every street leads to the Capitol
The second shot of Texas is the Capitol. This proves the two things that everyone north of the Mason-Dixon line knows to be true: 1) Texas is approximately 90% desert and 2) The non-desert parts are, in order: the Capitol, the Alamo and that big ball tower thing in Dallas. Don’t worry, though: In case you ever forgot what the Capitol looks like, 9-1-1: Lone Star reminds you roughly five times an episode. Because, as everyone knows, every street leads to the State Capitol.
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There’s a character named Judd
Judd wears a cowboy hat. Judd has “Psalm 31” tattooed on his left hand. Judd hates New Yorkers, and really hates New Yorkers who move to Texas. Is this how all Texans look, act and sound? *checks Texas notes, aka the Bible* Yep. Checks out.
A taco-and-pepper prank goes horribly wrong
Since this is a show set in the 9-1-1 universe, you best believe there are going to be plenty of foolhardy folks who have to call 911 after finding themselves in precarious situations. Since this is Texas, those precarious situations have to involve a) tacos and b) peppers. Specifically, Unnamed Latin Man #1 attempts to prank Unnamed Latin Man #2 with a very hot taco, only to have Unnamed Latin Man #2 switch the tacos like the dastardly, well-developed character he is. Unnamed Latin Man #1 is allergic to said peppers, which causes major damage to his esophagus and facilitates an adorable meet cute between Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler. Oh, and this all takes place during a backyard barbecue (because of course it does).
There’s a line dancing scene, and it’s not cringe-y at all
Late in the episode, Rob Lowe’s Capt. Owen Strand (yes, I learned his name, and it was even more ridiculous than I thought) takes the new crew of Ladder 126 to a bar to celebrate saving a baby from a tree. The bar may or may not be (but definitely is) the bar from Road House, and a single man with a banjo is entertaining a horde of boot-scootin’ patrons as they sip Pabst and Coors. To further facilitate the budding romance between Lowe and Tyler, said banjo player strikes up a tune and invites all the single ladies and gentlemen to the dusty dance floor for some good ‘ol fashioned line dancing. To the amazement of Tyler and all other Texans, that Yankee Owen Strand can actually do a little line dancing! Thus, 9-1-1: Lone Star confirms what everyone south of the Mason-Dixon Line knows to be true: if a damned Yankee can do a little line dancing, well, he can stay.
I was so lost in my analysis of this television program’s nuanced depiction of Texas that I forgot to pay attention to much of the even more nuanced plot. From what I gathered, Liv Tyler’s sister was murdered, Judd and Owen Strand may have more in common than we thought (!) and Rob Lowe’s character cares very deeply about skincare. But rest assured: 9-1-1: Lone Star is getting massive ratings (because of course it is) so we’ll all have plenty of time to do a deep dive into the layers of this complex show. Yeehaw.