If you had told me at the beginning of the season that Chicago Fire would be one of my favorite new shows of the season, oh how I would have laughed.
As a general rule, I dislike procedurals. They are woefully light on character development and spend more time introducing new, throwaway characters each week than they do on the mainstays. It can sometimes take seasons to find out someone is married. They just show up, do their job and go home.
As a Dick Wolf production, responsible for the granddaddy of all procedurals, the Law & Order franchise, I expected very little. However, the cast included Taylor Kinney (Vampire Diaries), Jesse Spencer (House), Lauren German (Hawaii Five-0, Eamonn Walker (OZ) and David Eigenberg (Sex and The City). That alone was enough to catch my attention.
While the first episode was a little shaky and out of focus, by episode two it became clear Chicago Fire wasn’t a procedural at all. It has a little bit of Rescue Me in it, with the firehouse ribbing and emergency calls and a lot of Parenthood. Imagine the firefighters, rescue squad and paramedics of Firehouse 51 in Chicago rely on each other to save the lives of total strangers and each other. That need has them deeply invested in each other both inside and out of the firehouse, bringing a completely unique vision to Chicago Fire that I don’t think has been attempted before on network television.
You’d expect Kelly (Kinney) to be a player. He has the looks, the bravado and the charm, but his moral compass keeps him from straying too far over the line. Some of the most compelling stories have involved Kelly’s giving heart. When he was unable to save a trapped man in a collapsed building, he used his cell phone to film a goodbye message to his wife of many years.
Kelly lives with Leslie (German), a lesbian who keeps him in check with the ladies, but he hardly needs checking. Their sibling like relationship is refreshing and enjoyable to watch.
Chief Boden (Walker) and Lt. Casey (Spencer) serve as the role models for most of the Firehouse and when they find themselves in trouble, the troops step into action to protect and serve. In “One Minute,” a man lost his homeless brother to an explosion when Boden called his men out of a burning warehouse for safety reasons.
The first thing that came to my mind as they portrayed him on the news, sporting a T-shirt with his brother’s photo, blaming his death on the City of Chicago was “where were you when your brother needed a place to stay?” So rarely are topics like that addressed that I was practically floored, when Christopher Hermann (Eigneberg) stepped in front of the news camera to confront the man to ask that very question, pointing out that they made decisions to save complete strangers every day.
What’s interesting about the cases on Chicago Fire is they don’t feel forced, or done because they have to get a fire or rescue scene in to honor the name of the show. They’re integral to telling the stories about the men and women who have chosen the jobs they are in and how they survive each day. They remind us what it’s like to leave for work when their children don’t know if they will come home and even how the power of their position can corrupt when the wrong person ends up in the job.
Chicago Fire is about everyday heroes. After the recent super storm in New York City, there’s one thing we know for sure. We can never have enough of them. If Chicago Fire can inspire someone to take a job serving others, while still making viewers laugh and cry, it’s well worth watching.