TV MADNESS #26: CHICAGO FIRE

It’s really hard to make a firefighter TV drama. Cops and doctors have the human condition to build on where firefighters it’s man vs. nature and the elements.

NBC did have lots of success a couple years back with “Third Watch” which lasted six seasons. The show focused on police, firemen and paramedics.

And the reason the show was a success was it was able to diversify and tell different stories when it needed to. Another was the short-lived “LA Firefighters” in the mid 1990s.

The biggest firefighter drama to date was the classic “Emergency” which was a staple on TV in the 1970s but that show focused on paramedics and firefighters.

NBC’s “Chicago Fire” has lots in common with “Emergency” except it has flipped the dynamic to the firefighters. The pilot begins with Chicago’s 81st firemen seeing one of their own killed in a house explosion. This sends a shockwave through the firehouse and puts fireteam leaders Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer) and Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney) at each other’s throats. The show tries to establish the world of firefighters right up front: life, death, community, brotherhood, family, relationships and the fires.

But the biggest hurdle about making a firefighter drama engaging is what to do when the heroes aren’t in jeopardy. And also how to photograph the show so all fires don’t look the same. Each episode can’t be “Backdraft” and you can’t have a firefighter die in every episode. One dies and one is critically injured in just the pilot. So how do you build a decent show?

This series needs to diversify some. Yes the paramedics is a good place to start but how about bringing in an arson investigator?

In the preview for episode two, the show is going to introduce a dirty cop (played by Jason Beghe) which will amplify the rivalry between cops and firemen but this really takes away from what this show should be about.

The cast of “Chicago Fire” does have lots of familiar faces. And they are all good. The star of the show is “House MD” veteran Jesse Spencer. Taylor Kinney was part of Jerry Bruckheimer’s TV series “Trauma” in 2009. David Eigenberg was on “Sex & the City” as Miranda’s on-again off-again boyfriend. Lauren German had a long stint on “Hawaii Five-O” as well as starred in various horror films. Monica Raymund has done tenures on “The Good Wife” and “Lie to Me”.

The cast pedigree is there but I am not sure the creative talent is there. The series is written by the writing team, Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, who gave us action films like “Wanted” and “2 Fast 2 Furious”. There best work to date was their script for the remake of “3:10 to Yuma” but where is there anything that says they know firehouses, the people and what it is to be a firemen. This show needs firm direction, intrigue and something to make us want to come back. I just don’t see it. It needs to evolve and in a hurry or it’s gonna be DOA quick.

GIVE IT: 3 episodes.

WATCH OR DVR: DVR.

PILOT RATING:  2.5 out of 5

“CHICAGO FIRE” AIRS WEDNESDAY NIGHTS ON NBC.

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