Should I Be Watching NBC’s Chicago PD?

Chicago PD (Photo: NBC.com)

The cop show spinoff from Chicago Fire that Jon Seda fans were screaming for.

There are shows that are all sizzle and no steak. But this is Chicago, so steak will be served aplenty – just sometimes they’ll really throw on some sizzle on one side of a very good-looking table while simultaneously placing an excellent quality t-bone kinda over on the other side, and then once in a while you’ll instead get a damn good hamburger in a greasy spoon, and sometimes you’ll be eating something at a Denny’s that looked a lot better and more substantial in the picture on the menu.

And that’s my review of Chicago PD. Thanks for coming.

This is a Dick Wolf joint, no question. Pretty faces alongside character actors who wear their tropes like old warm sweaters. Saturated colors but plenty of outdoor scenes. Cities. ‘Characters’. Emotion cued by underscoring and slow camera moves across Intense Faces. It’s less a procedural than most of the Law & Order universe, more, presumably, like the ‘real life on and off the job’ format of its progenitor Chicago Fire.1

And that’s where Chicago PD‘s menu becomes the above mentioned smorgasbord. Wolf, and most networks, typically don’t have the interest in or patience for investing time in real character arcs2 and thus the characters become a) tools for moving along a given plot and b) quality-dependent on the actors (and directors and writers, granted) who play them. Plus real life isn’t interesting enough to fill an hour of slice of life prime time, so a lot of things happen in each episode.3 At one end of this spectrum is E.R. At the other is all of CBS.

Fortunately every character on this show is watchable, even if some are often mutable. Ostensible lead Jason Beghe is the living embodiment of a quarry in both build and voice – he is who you want running a hard nosed intelligence unit. Elias Koteas and his stubble are executing the veteran cop with family issues schtick to near perfection – no more, no less than the scenes deserve. Sophia Bush is showing rather than telling (unlike, as pretty as he is, Jesse Lee Soffer) the smart, tough cop with street smarts and her own troubled past. Everyone else (Jon Seda, Patrick John Flueger, Marina Squerciati, Laroyce Hawkins) is usually asked to do what they’re capable of and rarely wanders into Denny’s territory.4 Archie Kao needs to be in this show more because… Archie Kao!5

The show is still insubstantial (by E.R. standards) and it’s really missing a sense of place. Just take a look at the graphic at the top of the page – it suggests a theme, a feel, a through line that would be awesome. Chicago PD, though, could kinda be set anywhere, as long as there were enough Crime to happen.  

Frankly, we’re in a pretty dead time for cop shows and procedurals in general. If you’re looking for a shot of blue (at least until the summer when Canada give us Rookie Blue and Motive again) Chicago PD‘s solid execution is a much better bet than other new arrivals (Intelligence) or the very rapidly calcifying stalwarts (SVU, again pretty much all of CBS).

Don’t expect much. But if you’re like me and looking for a cop show, you weren’t anyway.

  1. I watched the first episode of Chicago Fire and then never went back. I think I was unconvinced by Jesse Spencer’s accent, and that wasn’t overcome by my love for David Eigenberg.  
  2. Where have you gone, Homicide?  
  3. Episode 4 contained – and did a decent job of managing – a main crime, a side plot with one detective dealing with one witness in said crime, an unrelated B-plot crime, two unrelated to anything Personal Lives storylines and, depending on how you count, two additional Personal Lives moments. I think it covered 72 hours, but it might have been one shift, or a week.  
  4. Seda actually was what piqued my interest in the pilot episode. He chewed scenery a bit in episode 2 but if they stay away from him Defending His Family he’ll be a sneaky good addition to the mix.  
  5. For the record: I’m not sure how I feel about Amy Morton’s character (her portrayal is what it is with what she’s given. The guest cast is all over the place. And they should just drop Voight’s son’s storyline, like right yesterday.  

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About Aaron Mucciolo 206 Articles
He does things. That's all we can say at this time. E-mail: mooch@whatelseison.tv