By John Hanlon
If good intentions always led to quality programs, then First Responders Live would be a great show. The Fox program openly aims to honor first responders across the country. Hosted by former CBS news anchor Josh Elliott, the show features footage of these heroes as they confront emergency situations in real time.
As Elliott notes, these first responders are “truly unsung heroes who always run towards danger and never from it.”
The first episode introduces the program’s concept, with introductory text revealing that “events occurring this evening air on a slight delay for legal, privacy and safety reasons” and noting that some segments were previously recorded. The program adds that “people detained or arrested by police are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
On the documentary series, first responders are called in and react to a variety of intense situations. In the first episode alone, there was a fire, a rogue ATV driver who got hit by a car, a sick baby and the brutal aftermath of a street fight. During the emergencies, the cameras capture the action up close and then Elliott oftentimes comments on it, relying on an in-studio expert to better understand the situation in more detail. At the end of each episode, the host gives an update on the cases that were featured throughout the hour.
The show feels like a combination of the long-running hit Cops and Rescue 911.
The concept of supporting first responders is undeniably a welcome and a timely one. In the premiere episode, for instance, Elliott talks about Jon Stewart testifying in support of the September 11th first responders. Those heroes and the men and women who serve our nation every day saving lives deserve our respect and admiration. Elliott highlights some of them individually in brief pre-taped clips that air during the show.
Because of the nature of the action unfolding on the show, viewers could be left feeling a level of discomfort. Many of the victims here are suffering through some of the worst moments of their lives so it oftentimes feels insensitive to capture the heartbreaking pain and anguish they are going through. Some of these victims are fighting for their very lives.
Shows like Rescue 911 focused on emergencies as well but because those situations were resolved long before the episodes taped, there was a fuller appreciation of the complete story. This show, however, throws the viewers into the situations — sometimes not knowing how an emergency will end.
By its nature, First Responders Live has a frantic pace. The program moves from emergency to emergency with producers inevitably hoping to catch a big story when it happens. With that in mind, the show sometimes loses focus during the situations it documents. Instead of letting the audience fully appreciate all that is happening during an emergency, the program oftentimes moves along to another case.
To its credit, the show highlights unsung heroes and the invaluable work they do every day. However, this format doesn’t really work well in showcasing the heroes or the cases themselves. Rescue 911 worked so much better in highlighting emergency cases while showcasing an appreciation for these early responders.
First Responders Live seems to have a noble and strong purpose but that purpose is undermined by its discomforting format and its rush to capture as many emergencies as possible within each 60-minute episode.
First Responders Live airs Wednesday nights on Fox.