What 9-1-1: Lone Star Gets Right (and Wrong) About Austin

My wife and I have enjoyed watching 9-1-1: Lone Star since the first episode. It’s a great sibling show to the original 9-1-1. The producer’s decision to set Lone Star in Austin is interesting. Not a lot of shows choose our funky city as a backdrop.

For all the drama and fun of the show, there is a lot of emphasis on its location. It feels as though almost every plot is influenced by its having to play out in Austin, Texas.

9-1-1 gets a lot right about Austin, but it misses the mark on some very important aspects of our city. Here are just a handful of the points that stand out the most.

Right: Street Names and Locations

There are references to traffic on specific high-congestion streets known well to every Austinite. Taking Mopac instead of I-35, or a building fire on Lamar rings bells. I haven’t seen references to specific street names, neighborhoods, or surrounding suburbs that I haven’t recognized.

These small details could be missed by anyone that doesn’t live in Austin. It’s a nice touch.

Wrong: Music Culture

Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World” and the live music culture is rarely referenced or showcased in the show. When characters are hanging out at the bar, there’s no live band playing. None of the city’s big music festivals are mentioned, at all.

When there is a hint of music in the show, it’s Country music. As nice as the genre is, it isn’t the go-to one you’ll hear most of the residents jamming out to.

Half-Right: Transplants

The main firehouse the show centers around is staffed almost entirely by people from other states. The Captain and his son are from New York City, and most of the named characters are pulled in from around the country.

The one main character at the firehouse firmly rooted in Austin speaks with a thick Southern drawl. While not typical for lifelong Austinites, it isn’t completely unbelievable.

Austin is largely populated with folks from California, Florida, Colorado, and other areas of the country. More surprisingly, 20% of Austin’s population is foreign-born.

Where it gets it wrong is in the perceived rarity of someone from another city. Austinites also wouldn’t spot the transplant and give them a funny nickname out of any type of novelty. It appears to be the go-to trope the show brings up every chance it gets.

Wrong: Filming Location

Unfortunately for Austin’s local film scene, 9-1-1: Lone Star is not filmed in Austin. It’s filmed in California with some cityscape b-roll setting the scene in Austin.

Palm trees aren’t a regular sight in Austin. Sure, we have a few specially-planted ones here and there, but they aren’t as prevalent as seen in the background of many of its scenes.

Wrong: Cowboy Culture

The costume designers put a lot of emphasis on Texas farmer attire in a city that I rarely (if ever) see anyone that doesn’t actually work at a farm wear. Cowboy hats and boots, Native American ponchos, leather jackets with long fringe, and plenty of other odds and ends that might be commonplace in a small Texas town, but are rarely seen in Austin.

It’s a trope that comes up whenever a show run by non-Texans writes about Texas. While a lot of the state might fit the image, Austin doesn’t.

Despite getting so much culturally wrong about the city itself, 9-1-1: Lone Star does what few shows before it could. It puts Austin in the same category as New York and Los Angeles as a city worthy of a dramatic series.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson