Fire Country Adds a Redemption Arc to the Firefighting Genre, But Can It Handle the Heat?
It’s always interesting when a show delves into unknown territory.
At first glance, Fire Country seems like your typical, run-of-the-mill firefighter drama.
There’s the captain that’s a bit too harsh to his teammates, the firefighters that make life on the team enjoyable, and the memorable trail-blazing fires.
But there’s one thing Fire Country has that others currently on air don’t — the Cal-Fire Conservation Program.
The real-life program takes nonviolent prisoners into minimal custody ‘fire camps,’ supervising them on calls out-of-county or on local assignments.
Most accepted inmates are paid upwards of five dollars a day for their help, earning practical skills and respect for what the hard workers around them do for a living.
For such a highly respected organization, it’s a wonder why no other creator has decided to pitch the idea before.
It’s also a wonder why it took CBS so long to do it.
With the growing popularity, fire dramas have gradually become more popular within the 18-49 year demographic.
It’s almost on par with shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Chicago Med, which have dominated the first responder genre for years.
With that knowledge, it would be a no-brainer to cash in on the hype.
The thing is, TV producers will only stick to what they know will get them the most views.
If there’s a chance adding a new story to the fall lineup will lose them money, they won’t do it.
Before you can even begin writing for a new procedural, you must have a unique story proposal combined with something familiar enough for the general audience to connect.
That gives producers a glimpse into the world you’re trying to create.
It’s a lot more complicated than it sounds, but that’s where Fire Country comes in.
Not only have they decided to use an eye-catching idea, but they’ve also decided to use one that will get the unreached audience to tune in.
Firefighters and prison inmates. What could be better than that?
Within the first episode, you can see that the writers have taken the time to build up the inmate plot points.
They’ve given them backstory, given them a connection to the other characters, and even made them a necessary addition to the prior storylines happening before.
It’s something that all TV shows have to excel at, and so far, Fire Country is doing great.
That’s not the only thing they’ve taken the time to build, though.
They’ve decided to focus on not one but two firehouses, setting it apart from its current predecessors.
Most shows will focus on a firehouse in one city, giving it a weak outlook once the initial appeal wears off.
Doing so this way gives it the advantage of making something that won’t have viewers thinking hey! I remember seeing that elsewhere!
Most of the characters in the first hour made it known that they disapproved of the inmates coming into their beloved small town.
Understandable. You wouldn’t want some newcomer coming into your hometown acting like they know the place better than you.
If the writers keep that up here for more than a few episodes, they’ll be in a good place story-wise.
Nobody likes to see the only interesting conflict resolved in half an episode.
Unlike other firefighter shows currently on air, the ability to go off other shows for inspiration is limited.
Each episode splits itself between the so-called fire camps and the primary station in the town.
Not many predecessors have pulled off that without crowding the storylines that other episodes previously set up.
That means it’ll make itself completely original if it manages not to spotlight one firehouse over the other.
The writers are doing a great job at that right now.
The storylines, especially the ones involving the camps, are well intertwined and don’t overlap.
Aside from the apparent dramatics, they haven’t done anything that would paint the program in a bad light. At least to someone who isn’t a part of Cal-Fire.
You have a few characters here and there who don’t quite fit in, but the drama makes for a great story.
Take Bode Donovan (Max Thieriot), for example.
His character had his entire life in front of him until one mistake knocked him down.
He’s level-headed, keeps his head down, and ensures that the people around him are safe even if he doesn’t have the best relationship with them.
Jake Crawford (Jordan Calloway) is one of the first people Bode doesn’t quite get along with.
He is one of the firefighters from the second station.
He and Bode were best friends until he broke up with Bode’s sister, which, in a shocking turn, ended with her dying in a car crash the night their relationship ended.
Hopefully, by the end of the season, the writers will find a way to make them get along again.
Now onto the bad news.
While there are several ways Fire Country can bring a new era to television, the writers also risk losing focus on where they want the rest of the season to go.
It’s not an uncommon thing to see on tv.
Some shows start strong and taper off towards the end of the series because of a lack of direction.
Fire Country has started strong, but some new storylines give the impression that it might not know what it wants.
Sharon Donovan (Diane Farr) is one of those storylines.
At the end of episode one, Sharon revealed she was suffering from kidney disease.
Was it shocking? Absolutely. But it was teetering towards telenovela storytelling since nobody has brought it up except in passing.
Another example is Manny Perez (Kevin Alejandro).
At the end of episode two, we learn that he is all for second chances because he was once an inmate at the same prison as Bode.
Once again shocking, but not unexpected.
It’ll be much better if the show can taper off the usual dramatics and give more unseen storylines.
For right now, they seem to be at a standstill.
All in all, Fire Country can bring a new generation to tv if they can figure out how to work to make their long-term goals for the show mesh with the current plans.
Nevertheless, I’ll be watching to see what the writers pull off.
Rebecca Shaw is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.