Simply put, NBC’s Chicago Fire is a familiar, by the book procedural about firefighters and paramedics at a Chicago firehouse. While it may not be groundbreaking television, for NBC, it doesn’t have to be. What it is though is a slick and easy to watch hour that does just enough without trying too hard. And that’s just fine.
NBC lacks a tried and true procedural. Revolution is a high concept post-apocalyptic drama, Grimm is a crime procedural, but high on the mythology, and Parenthood is a family drama. Dick Wolf’s lone remaining drama on NBC, Law & Order: SVU is aging rapidly, so Chicago Fire might just be what NBC needs.
You can compare Chicago Fire to many a shows in the last few years. The easiest would be to the last great TV firefighter drama, Rescue Me, which admittedly is much more a character driven drama about firefighter and their personal struggles. You definitely won’t be seeing Jesus riding shotgun on Chicago Fire.
NBC’s last attempt at the genre was Trauma which eventually ended up being a sort of hollow hour of big explosions and the beautiful San Francisco skyline.
Chicago Fire is all business and would be best served up as a straightforward drama about the close knit group of brothers who have to be the heroes that save people’s lives every day.
The first episode starts off with the death of one of their own with the rest of the hour spent watching the squad deal with the loss and establishing their responsibility by way of a few emergency calls. So far, our heroes are just that. Men and women who come in everyday to work. There might not be much depth for each character yet, which would be a problem if we don’t dig into their lives a little more in future episodes. But the pilot did show glimpses.
So it helps that the show realizes its best asset is all the eye candy. NBC has made no secret that that’s probably the show’s biggest selling point, judging from the promos. And for a show that’s easy and familiar, having the likes of Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney, Charlie Barnett, Monica Raymund, Lauren German, and Eamonn Walker (R.I.P Kings) definitely helps.
But Chicago Fire is the kind of drama that works well just being what it is. No need to stretch and force intricate plot. The quota for that kind of drama is pretty much filled on NBC already. Let’s meet our heroes and watch them save the day. What’s interesting is our main characters are so far, pretty likeable. Or at the very least, not assholes.
It isn’t reinventing the genre. Chicago Fire is kind of like Easy Listening. Just sit back, watch, and be entertained. And sometimes that’s perfectly fine.