Dick Wolf is one of the most successful TV producers in the history of the medium with his critically acclaimed series of Law and Order shows that span dozens of seasons and an array of diversity rarely seen onscreen. His new endeavor is just as successful if not more in that it combines all of the different aspects of each show into a shared universe for the characters to seamlessly crossover into.
Chicago Fire hit first, documenting and following the adventures of a single firehouse and the types of dramatic rescues they pursue as well as the day to day procedural issues that made the Law and Order franchise a hit. Every character has their own baggage in the typical drama way, but the show’s heart shows in times of peril. Stories culminate into moments that make their average people bullshit seem frivolous in the face of a raging inferno and that’s refreshing. It’s also terrifying, but the inspiration you gain from watching these feats when knowing that this is as real of an account of actual firefighting as you can possibly get without being one makes this really riveting. It didn’t take off as well as the shows to come, but it caught their tailwinds and is making it up to their level pretty steadily. In the shared world between shows, the main bar that everyone in this part of Chicago goes to is run by a fireman and he has other firemen who work their part-time to help out. You better bet that you’ll see some people from the other shows in there and not just as background fodder, but as actual conversating and interacting characters.
Chicago P.D. was the second to appear in the new set of Chicago-based stories. Like New York, Chicago boasts hard-nosed police against a city that is filled with crime at every corner, but beneath it all lies a caring set of people fighting the good fight against all odds. The main difference in Chicago P.D. is that the grit level is turned up and the violence is more prevalent. These aren’t your goody-two-shoes cops you expect. Every one of them would like to bash in the heads of every child killer they apprehend and it’s so believable when they have to hold back that the tension level becomes palpable. Every scenario still follows the same “ripped from the headlines” formula that the other shows use, but Chicago turns it up a notch with high-octane action and some nice cinematography that lends itself to more thriller/suspense than it does typical TV drama. Honestly, in my house we call it the Batman show. The main Sergeant Voight is Batman—harsh, brutal, unforgiving, but noble and guiding toward his team. There are few right hand men that are your Robins and Nightwings and Batgirls and it really feels the same as Gotham in the comics as it would be in real life. Fighting against crime and shitty people doing shitty things to others with no rhyme or reason. No surprise when these guys show up at the bar after a long shift on the job.
Lastly came Chicago Med and this one surprised me. We have Grey’s Anatomy and E.R. to thank for the stereotype of medical shows being overdramatic love-fests in the style of soap operas, but Chicago Med doesn’t feel that way. Yes, it’s characters have issues and drama between them, but all of that is overshadowed by the fast-paced issues that hit the trauma ward of their hospital. We become invested in not only the characters, but in wanting the characters to succeed in diagnosing and treating their patients—not for them, but because the show paints an all too real picture of what real trauma looks like. “Ripped from the headlines” medical issues are jarring and shocking in a way that makes you uncomfortable, but really just hopeful that these victims recover and can be saved. That’s the human part of the show and it carries through to the actors who give great performances that show they want the same thing. Again, after a stressful day in Trauma it’s no surprise they end up at the bar too.
There’s a new show on the way too, Chicago Law that will no doubt follow in the Law and Order procedural fashion and honestly, I can’t wait. I’m invested in this world that spans different shows because I’ve bought into the characters and the investments they’ve made in the world itself as representations of everything I hope is true about the jobs that protect the people. Add to it the amount of diversity that all of these shows have in their cast and it honestly feels like the most representative TV show of the real world.
You can catch all of these shows on Hulu or you can watch them as they air on NBC.