The lives of the occupants of a Chicago Firehouse, including fireman, paramedics and something called a rescue squad whose purpose I’m unclear on, but seems very dramatic.
That’s a great trailer, not because it necessarily makes you want to watch Chicago Fire, but because it’s absolutely spot on for what the pilot of the series is. For a start it’s got the entire plot from the first scene to the last boiled down to the key moments, all the pilot does is extend each meaningful look, extend the action sequences and briefly introduce a few more secondary characters each with their own identifying characteristic (the gay one, the one with money troubles, the old one, the new one, the one with the terrible moustache).
What’s both impressive and unfortunate though is that the tone of the episode is exactly the same as the trailer. That level of intensity works well in a 3 minute trailer, but when it’s drawn out over an hour it rather left me wanting to give everyone a valium and suggest taking up mediation. Every line is delivered like it’s the end of the world and the trophy for delivering the most clichés is what will save you from damnation. During the fires and accidents that the crews attend when it is actually life and death that works ok, but gets a bit tiresome when everyone continues in that tone while eating dinner, arranging to go out for drinks or standing half naked in a locker room. Every statement is loaded with testosterone, emotional back story and an overwhelming sense of responsibility which quickly made its way through tiresome towards faintly hilarious.
There are a few other problems, not least for a UK audience (or at least for me) it’s a bit confusing what the structures and responsibilities are, which makes it rather hard to understand some of the conflicts. I’m also a bit unsettled by all the firefighters being men and all the women being paramedics but I’m not gonna go too nuts about that.
So given that, why am I going to keep watching? I don’t really know, maybe it’s just that I love shows about the emergency services having been practically raised on Casualty, London’s Burning and The Bill. The fire sequences were extremely well done, and other than the stupid mistake in the flashback rescue at the start, the characters all come across as extremely competent professionally even if they’re a bit of a mess in their personal lives. Based on the pedigree of the cast involved (Jesse Spencer from House, Taylor Kinney of Trauma, Monica Raymond from Lie to Me) I think they can all deliver good and interesting performances (although Spencer’s American accent remains unproven).
I will be sticking with it for a few more episodes, but I have to say that the whole thing just really made me miss Trauma, the San Francisco paramedic series that failed to make it beyond a first season despite me thinking it was excellent. Trauma managed to create intensity and convey the life-and-death situations without the melodrama. I think if Chicago Fire can just calm down a bit, lighten up the dialogue and let the actors become more relaxed in their characters, Chicago Fire may turn into something quite watchable.
Chicago Fire is on Sky Living on Wednesdays, repeated Sunday and Tuesdays from the look of it.
TV Fanatic – The fire fighting and the rescues are the greatest strength of the show. The scenes are full of adrenaline and heart-pounding action, and this is part of the something that Chicago Fire does possess. No matter how lacking some of the characters are at this junction
Yahoo! TV – The “Chicago Fire” series premiere was missing something that’s difficult to pin down, but it was likely linked to tons of stories and subplots crammed into a single episode. The show has promise, but it needs to take breather.
Zap 2 it Fighting fires is an inherently exciting profession, so there’s no shortage of drama to mine. But the show has the potential to quickly go wrong if it focuses too much on the relationship drama and not enough on the fires.