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Review: Fox's '9-1-1' spinoff 'Lone Star' shines with charming Rob Lowe and a sense of fun

Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY

There is no end to the number of emergencies Fox can provide its audience. 

The network is turning its Ryan Murphy-produced first responder drama "9-1-1" into a franchise with "9-1-1: Lone Star," a spinoff based in Austin, Texas, starring Rob Lowe. Like its Los Angeles-set cousin, the series follows firefighters, paramedics, beat cops and 911 operators who answer the call of emergencies that range from explosions to ghost peppers to old ladies who report on annoying neighbors. 

In "Lone Star" (premiering Sunday, approximately 10 EST/7 PST, then Mondays at 8 EST/PST, ★★★ out of four), a tragedy that kills all but one firefighter in an Austin firehouse leads city leaders to recruit New York fire captain Owen Strand (Lowe), who worked at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Rob Lowe stars in Fox spinoff "911: Lone Star."

Owen, who is secretly battling cancer, is tasked to rebuild the Austin team, and he recruits a diverse group from around the country, including his troubled son TK (Ronen Rubinstein). They join Judd (Jim Parrack), Judd's 9-1-1 operator wife Grace (Sierra Aylina McClain) and paramedic captain Michelle Blake (Liv Tyler), among others. 

The ensemble cast has great chemistry and falls into a rhythm quickly in the first two episodes. Compared to the original series, "Lone Star" is a little more fun, at least after its tragic opening incident. The soundtrack is kicky, the rank-and-file firefighters cheekier and the references to skincare routines increased, in a gentle jab at Lowe.  In addition to the steady stream of emergencies, the series focuses on Judd's post-traumatic stress disorder, Owen's cancer battle, TK's addiction struggles and Michelle's search for her missing sister. 

Liv Tyler in "9-1-1: Lone Star."

Tyler is genial, but Lowe is the real anchor, and he never fails to deliver his trademark charm. Owen has many shades of Lowe's "Parks and Recreation" character Chris Traeger, obsessed with his physical appearance and holistic health, and it's welcome to see Lowe talk about fish oil supplements with such panache again. 

"Lone Star" still includes heart-humping emergencies, including a sequence more anxiety-inducing than anything on the original: a "Bird Box"-style mass hysteria caused by mercury poisoning, as well as one in which a baby is flung into a tree. 

Natacha Karam and Brian Michael Smith in "9-1-1: Lone Star."

Not every cop or medical drama needs a spinoff, but Murphy and his longtime co-creators Tim Minear and Brad Falchuck clearly tapped into what worked in "9-1-1," transplanted it easily to Texas and found a way to give "Lone Star" a tone and atmosphere all its own. 

Emergencies crop up everywhere. Who knows how many "9-1-1" series we could have. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: '9-1-1: Lone Star' review: Rob Lowe charms in the fun Fox spinoff