I almost feel as though I should write two reviews for this show. One review for people who watched Denis Leary’s fire squad series Rescue Me and one for those who didn’t.
In a way, it’s impossible for a broadcast network series to go to the extremes that Rescue Me did. It dealt with issues on cable that just wouldn’t be permitted on network TV. So, my approach to watching the first episode of Chicago Fire is to try (not always successfully) to set aside my opinion of Rescue Me as the gold standard series about firefighters, and to try to judge Chicago Fire on its own merits.
The first thing that struck me about watching the pilot is that by the time the squad is placed in jeopardy at a fire about halfway through the episode, I actually cared about the danger they were in. That means the characters had grown on me in the first few minutes of the show, which is a promising sign.
The down side is that there are a lot of predictable characters. For one thing, they are almost too earnest. They have the same old relationship problems we’ve seen over and over on other shows, both within the workplace and with the other people in their lives. It’s well-worn material. Still, it held my interest for the hour and made me want to watch it again. Perhaps there is comfort in that predictability.
Remember that I said I wasn’t always successful in setting aside comparisons to Rescue Me? Well, there is one area where Chicago Fire could have gone as far as Rescue Me has gone before: It could be funnier. There is almost no humour in Chicago Fire. One prank gets played on a newbie, but it was so predictable that I literally saw the payoff coming as the new guy walked right into it. It wasn’t funny, it was a groaner of a moment. This show could easily work some funny moments into the show and do it as well as any cable show does it, but I get the feeling that the creators have no intention of ever going there. That’s too bad.
In the end, I will likely watch Chicago Fire, but I won’t be too surprised or too sad when it inevitably gets cancelled. I say enjoy it while it lasts. It’s not a bad show. It’s almost a good show. I hope it has the chance to improve as the season goes on.
TV Gord’s verdict: Watch it while you can (possibly cancelled early on).