Rescue 911 logo
|Written by||Paula Deats
Nancy Platt Jacoby
|Directed by||Sheri Goldstein
Nancy Platt Jacoby
|Presented by||William Shatner|
|Theme music composer||Scott Roewe|
|Composer(s)||Richard Stone (Seasons 1-3)
Stu Goldberg (Seasons 4-7)
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||186 + 2 specials (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Arnold Shapiro
Jean O'Neill (Seasons 5-7)
|Producer(s)||Nancy Platt Jacoby (Seasons 1-2)
Jim Milio (Seasons 3-7)
|Running time||60 minutes (30 minutes in syndication)|
|Original run||April 18, 1989 – August 27, 1996|
Rescue 911 was an informational reality-based television series that premiered on CBS on April 18, 1989 and ended on August 27, 1996. The series was hosted by William Shatner and featured reenactments (and occasionally real footage) of emergency situations that often involved calls to 9-1-1.
Though never intended as a teaching tool, various viewers used the knowledge they obtained watching the show. Two specials, titled "100 Lives Saved" and "200 Lives Saved," were dedicated to these viewers who had written to CBS with their stories on how the knowledge they obtained watching the show allowed them to save the life of someone else. At least 350 lives have been saved as a result of what viewers learned from watching it. The show's popularity coincided with the widespread adoption of the 911 emergency system, replacing standalone police and fire numbers that would vary from municipality to municipality. The number is now universally understood in the United States and Canada to be the number dialed for emergency assistance nationwide.
At its height, the show was adapted in 45 countries (with their own 911 equivalent showcased).
- 1 Broadcast history
- 2 Format
- 3 International versions
- 4 Merchandise
- 5 Awards
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Originally intended to be only a set of three TV specials, the show was picked up by CBS for the 1989 fall season after two specials aired on April 18 and May 9 of that year. It began airing as a regular series on September 5, 1989 and ran for 7 seasons, with the last new episode airing on August 27, 1996. The last episode to air on CBS (a repeat) aired on September 3, 1996.
Though it aired Tuesdays at 8:00 PM for most of its run, Rescue 911 occasionally aired on other nights either as an additional episode shown during that week, or a temporary rearrangement to make room for another program.
In 1993, The Family Channel (FAM) began airing reruns, but it was removed from the lineup when the Family Channel became the FOX Family Channel in August 1998.
In 1993, a reformatted version (see below) of the show was sold into off-network syndication. The syndicated version continued to air both in the U.S. and internationally long after the show's cancellation, but it has not aired in the U.S. since July 2005.
The following networks have shown the show in the syndicated format:
- Numerous local affiliates
- The Family Channel (also showed the original format)
- Odyssey/The Hallmark Channel
- Discovery Health Channel
- Reality TV /Zone Reality
- CI (Australia)
- Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (Uganda)
|Season premiere||Season finale||Rank||Rating|
|1||1989–1990||Tuesday, 8 p.m.||30||September 5, 1989||May 15, 1990||#54|
|2||1990–1991||29||September 11, 1990||May 14, 1991||#31||13.5|
|3||1991–1992||27||September 17, 1991||May 19. 1992||#13||15.1|
|4||1992–1993||28||September 15, 1992||May 25, 1993||#18||14.61|
|5||1993–1994||28||September 14, 1993||May 24, 1994||#29||13.2|
|6||1994–1995||29||September 13, 1994||May 23, 1995||#48||10.8|
|7||1995–1996||Thursday, 9 p.m.||15||September 12, 1995||August 27, 1996||#84||7.7|
Season 2: Wednesday, 8 p.m.: April 1990 (in addition to Tuesday at 8 p.m.)
Season 3: Friday, 8 p.m.: January–February 1992 (in addition to Tuesday at 8 p.m.)
Season 7: Tuesday, 8 p.m.: September 1995, August–September 1996 (with the majority of the rest of the season airing on Thursdays at 9 P.M.)
Ratings by episode
When the show aired on CBS, episodes normally ran 60 minutes and featured four stories, although some episodes featured three nor five stories. Three-story episodes were common during the second and third seasons, but became less common during the later seasons.
Because the show was paired with The CBS Tuesday Night Movie for most of its run, episodes with irregular running times were occasionally created to accommodate movies that didn't fit the regular two-hour time slot. Such episodes usually ran 30 minutes and contained two stories. Others included a 90-minute episode, a 50-minute episode, a 45-minute episode, and a 15-minute episode containing only one story.
For the first five seasons, an opening disclaimer was shown before the opening credits. Shatner's voice was heard saying:
"This program contains true stories of rescues. All of the 911 calls you will hear are real. Whenever possible, the actual people involved have helped us reconstruct the events as they happened."
In a few of the early first season episodes, the last sentence of the disclaimer said:
"Unless indicated, the actual people involved have helped reconstruct the events as they happened."
In the sixth and seventh seasons, three segments from the episode were previewed rather than showing the disclaimer in the first five seasons, and a shortened version of the original introduction was shown. Reruns from earlier seasons that aired after September 1994 had their old introductions replaced by the new version of the introduction.
When reruns aired on FAM, episodes were edited for running time, censored for profanity and negative religious references, and graphic footage was sometimes edited out. FAM initially showed the opening disclaimer at the beginning of the episodes, but it was later replaced with a short teaser that previewed one or two segments from the episode. Sixth season episodes that aired on FAM had their introductions replaced with the original introduction, although the opening credits were not changed accordingly and were sometimes wrong. Seventh and final season episodes were never shown on FAM.
The syndicated version of the show ran 30 minutes and typically included two stories (usually from two different original episodes), although a few episodes contained one long-running story. Some syndicated episodes featured stories that began on one episode and concluded on the next, which was never done in the show's original format. Stories featured on syndicated episodes were often edited for running time, omitting short scenes that were shown in the original broadcasts. Three-hundred of these syndicated episodes were made, and featured segments from the first six seasons of the show.
Shatner would introduce episodes (and usually, all segments within them) from inside 911 dispatch centers or fire stations, or next to police cars and/or ambulances; He would end episodes from such locations as well. In addition, all segments included voiceover narration by Shatner, interview clips with the people involved and, in many cases, the actual recorded 911 call.
Unless otherwise specified, stories were presented in the form of re-enactments. Occasionally, recorded video footage of all or part of the event itself (usually amateur video or television news coverage) would be used. In these instances, Shatner would mention that a particular amount of footage was taped "as events unfolded" in the opening to a segment in which recorded footage was included. Many re-enactments required complex presentation, such as the recreation of house fires, automobile accidents, police chases, explosions, pregnant women in labor, and even natural disasters.
Some stories took place in the form of a documentary. In these stories, the show's camera crews would ride along with paramedics or police, or wait in hospitals and film whatever happened to unfold. These stories usually involved more than one event in a single segment at the same medical facility. One such story was the Charles Stuart murder case, which happened during a ride-along with Boston EMS.
In the show's early seasons, Shatner would close episodes with a statement advising viewers to learn the emergency numbers in their area and to post them by each phone, as not all areas had the 911 system back then. Later in its run, however, the closing statements focused on other lifesaving tips such as learning various first aid techniques, among other things.
Crimes, automobile accidents, medical emergencies, fires, choking/asphyxiation, and miscellaneous injuries were the most common situations presented on the show. Other situations commonly presented on it included technical rescues, near-drownings, childbirth, animal rescues, search and rescue situations, and aircraft-related emergencies. Occasionally, stories involving gas leaks, electrocutions, suicide attempts, scuba diving accidents, drug overdoses, train-related accidents, allergic reactions, and natural disasters were also presented.
Although the show mostly featured serious emergencies, it occasionally featured humorous stories of non life-threatening situations and false alarms. Examples included a burglar who got stuck upside-down when he tried to enter a house through the chimney, a young boy who got stuck in a laundry chute while playing hide-and-seek, a young boy whose tongue froze to the inside of a freezer while he attempted to get ice cream, a man who got a plaster mask stuck on his face, a dog that stepped on the 911 speed dial button after getting tangled in the phone cord (although it was in danger of being strangled), a woman who called 911 when she mistook her parents' new mannequin for an intruder, and a man who woke up to a break-in at his house, only to discover the burglar was a bobcat.
A few segments featured on the show had previously gained national news coverage. These incidents included the New Year's Eve 1986 fire at Puerto Rico's DuPont Plaza Hotel, the 1987 Amtrak train wreck in Maryland, two segments on Hurricane Hugo, the June 1990 Ohio tornado, the Stuart murder case, the Salt Lake City Public Library hostage incident, and the Oklahoma City bombing.
Although the majority of stories featured ended with all lives being saved, there were some exceptions in which one or more victims died. Such occurrences became exceedingly rare later in Rescue 911's run, and usually occurred in documentary segments or in those reenacting multiple casualty incidents in which other victims survived. These occasions included:
- Special 2 (segment "Sudden Death"): A man in his 30's who was stabbed and went into cardiac arrest, is pronounced dead after doctors worked on him
- Pilot episode (also Season 1, episode 16): A burglar is shot dead after stabbing the shooter's father during a home invasion.
- Pilot episode (also Season 1, episode 17): Ten children do not survive on a church bus that gets swept into floodwaters
- Season 1, episode 1: Police shoot and kill a grocery store robber
- Season 1, episode 6: A restaurant employee is murdered
- Season 1, episode 6: Five people die in a burning high-rise office building.
- Season 1, episode 9: Former NFL player Jerry Anderson drowns while saving a boy from a river
- Season 1, episode 13: In the Dupont Plaza Hotel arson, 98 people die while many are rescued
- Season 1, episode 16: Sixteen people die in the Chase, Maryland rail wreck
- Season 1, episode 19: Three children and a young man are pulled from a burning house. While two of the children survive, one child and the young man don't.
- Season 1, episode 19: An elderly woman is killed when the car she is riding in is hit by runaway boxcars; her husband survives
- Season 1, episode 20: Charles Stuart murders his pregnant wife; his child later dies, and then he commits suicide.
- Season 1, episode 27: Although most of the people of Charleston, South Carolina were rescued after Hurricane Hugo, 3 people die
- Season 2, episode 2: Two out of three scuba divers are successfully rescued from an underwater cave; one dies
- Season 2, episode 5: One man dies in a hotel fire later found to be arson; all other tenants escape or are rescued
- Season 2, episode 7: A fugitive armed with a knife holds an EMT Hostage and after being arrested by police, he was transferred to a higher security prison where he later took his own life. The elderly woman who witnessed the stolen prison van has since lost her husband.
- Season 2, episode 8: Slick Johnson is killed in a crash during an auto race; a paramedic injured aiding another driver survives.
- Season 2, episode 10: A woman dies from complications 3 years after being shot by her husband (she was alive when this episode originally aired)
- Season 2, episode 19: A man is murdered at a bar; officers chasing the suspects are threatened by gunfire, but survive and are later able to apprehend the suspects
- Season 2, episode 27: The pilot of an aircraft dies while flying the plane; his wife brings it to a safe landing, surviving and preventing it from causing danger to others
- Season 2, episode 29: A fleeing bank robber being chased by police strikes and kills a detective, and the suspect is later killed in a shootout with police; the gunman's hostage survives unharmed
- Season 3, episode 14: A prowler is shot dead after seriously injuring a police officer
- Season 4, episode 8: A teen's friend is killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver
- Season 4, episode 13: A young man is killed in a drive-by shooting.
- Season 4, episode 21: A man dies seconds after being shot by a police officer after stabbing his girlfriend.
- Season 5, episode 18: A teen is brain dead after a car crash; her family donates her organs, saving three people in need of organ transplants
- Season 5, episode 20: A teenage boy dies from huffing butane (only re-enacted segment to have a sole victim die)
- Season 6, episode 13: A drunk driver kills a man and seriously injures a woman.
- Season 7, episode 10: A gunman holding hostages in a library is shot dead by an undercover sheriff's deputy posing as a hostage
In New Zealand, TV2 began screening the first season of Rescue 911 in 1991 and subsequent seasons following this. At the start of each episode, the network would display a reminder to viewers that the emergency number in New Zealand is 111. In 1992, with the permission of CBS, the show was renamed to Rescue 111 in New Zealand. This was done following reports of New Zealanders calling 9-1-1 in emergencies instead of 111. The show's starting was shortened with a Rescue 111 title replacing the Rescue 911 title. Its format remained the same, however, with Shatner still addressing the show as Rescue 911 along with all stories mentioning calling 9-1-1. When the final series screened in New Zealand in 1996, the show was simply called Rescue.
German network RTL started its own version with a mix of cases from Germany and the US in 1992. The show ran for over 14 years, with the last episode broadcast on August 27, 2006.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2010)|
Home video releases
In Rescue 911's early seasons on CBS, ads were shown after the end credits of every episode that gave an 800 number viewers could call to order a copy of that night's episode. This ad was dropped in later seasons.
On May 27, 1997, "Rescue 911: World's Greatest Rescues" was released on VHS. This video featured five stories of rescue attempts from around the world; segments were taken from both the U.S. and international versions of the show. The segments on the video were edited for running time, and the original narration on all segments (including those originally narrated by Shatner) were dubbed over by an uncredited narrator. The two stories taken from the U.S. version were about a New Zealand girl pinned beneath a flaming gasoline tanker (season three, episode twenty-five) and the infamous documentary of the Stuart murder case in Boston, Massachusetts (season one, episode twenty.) The other three stories, taken from international versions of the show were about a Belgian family trapped in a car hanging precariously from a high overpass, a Russian hostage crisis in which a terrorist held two women captive, and an Austrian skier who fell into an underground glacier river.
Several books were written that recounted stories featured on Rescue 911:
- Rescue 911 Extraordinary Stories by Linda Maron
- Rescue 911 Kid Heroes by Alison Hendrie
- Rescue 911 Amazing Rescues by Alison Hendrie
- Rescue 911 Humorous Rescues by R. M. Ferrara
- Rescue 911 Animal Rescues by R. M. Ferrara
- The Rescue 911 Family First Aid & Emergency Care Book by Julie Motz
Toys and games
- Model Kits: In 1993, AMT-ERTL released three Rescue 911 themed emergency vehicle model kits. Each of the three kits contained decals with the Rescue 911 logo, and each box had on its side panel a synopsis of a relevant story from Rescue 911. These models were:
- Police Car (1990 Ford Taurus). The side panel contained a synopsis of "911 Sister Abduction", in which a police officer rescued a six-year-old girl who was kidnapped from her back yard.
- Rescue Ambulance (Dodge). The side panel contained a synopsis of "911 Cribbage Choke", in which paramedics performed a risky procedure on board an ambulance to save a young boy choking on cribbage piece.
- Rescue Helicopter (Civilian Medical Rescue Helicopter). The side panel contained a synopsis of "The Helicopter Horse", in which an injured horse was lifted out of a canyon by helicopter.
- MatchBox Rescue 911 themed cars Pacecar, medic's car, and fire observer van and police van along with a search and rescue themed vehicles.
- Slot Car Set: In 1993, Marchon, Inc. released a slot car set called "Rescue 911 Chopper Rescue". The set included two slot cars (a fire truck and a police jeep) and a complete racetrack. A unique feature of this track was that it allowed racers to jump their cars over a canyon with the aid of a magnetic helicopter.
- Pinball Machine: In May 1994, Premier Technologies, trade-name Gottlieb, released a Rescue 911 pinball machine. It featured a helicopter that magnetically captured the ball as well as a red revolving light on the backbox.
|1990||People's Choice Awards||Won||Favorite New TV Dramatic Series||
|1992||BMI Film & TV Awards||BMI TV Music Award||Scott Roewe and Stu Goldberg|
|1993||BMI TV Music Award||Scott Roewe and Stu Goldberg|
|1994||BMI TV Music Award||Scott Roewe and Stu Goldberg|
- , Arnold Shapiro Productions
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- , Top Rated Programs - 1990-1995
- , Complete TV Ratings 1994-1995
- , Complete TV Ratings 1995-1996
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