Reality Sometimes Gets in the Way of ‘Rescue 911’ : Filming: The taping of the TV show at Huntington Beach dispatch center is often interrupted by real-life emergencies.


Darn those emergency calls.

Several such calls came into the Huntington Beach fire operating center last weekend as the crew of “Rescue 911” and host William Shatner (of “Star Trek” fame) were doing some taping there.

The CBS “reality” program, in which dramatic rescues are re-created, uses the center regularly to tape its opening, closing and introductions to various segments. But it soon became apparent that real emergency calls don’t wait for Hollywood; the taping was interrupted again and again.

According to Shatner, though, the inconveniences of taping the segments in a real dispatch center--with real fire personnel fielding the real calls--are outweighed by all that added realism. “This is more real than we could make it” on a sound stage, Shatner said during one of the breaks in the shooting.


The breaks afforded Shatner time to joke and chat amiably with the show’s crew and with the Huntington Beach Fire Department personnel. Meanwhile, several TV technicians gathered around a monitor to discuss the telegenic qualities of Shatner’s necktie (the consensus: “It’s a good tie.”).

Several episodes’ worth of Shatner introductions and segues are taped in a single day. When the show started two years ago, several dispatch centers in Southern California were used for these segments, but now only Huntington Beach gets the TV crew’s call. Shatner attributed the choice to a good working relationship with the city and the dispatch crew.

The once and forever Capt. Kirk was reluctant to discuss the upcoming and reportedly final film in the “Star Trek” series (“I haven’t even seen the rough cut”) but would say that he was attracted to “Rescue 911” because its stories deal with “real people” engaged in real acts of heroism.

Saturday, Shatner taped the introduction to the story of a young boy in Refurio, Tex. (the pronunciation of the town’s name was a source of discussion), who was nabbed by an alligator while swimming in a local river. He was rescued and survived.

In Refurio, Shatner told the camera, “a primitive, predatory animal still freely roams the banks of the Mission River.” Such stories, the actor said later, are “very entertaining, very gripping,”--”true stories,” as he intones in the show’s opening, “of danger, heroism and faith.”