January 16, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Chicago PD”


CHICAGO PD:  Wednesday 10PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on CHICAGO PD:  Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) is a tough-as-nails cop out of the Dick Wolf school of tough cops, and he runs a tough squad, although he has a heart of sufficient gold to rescue street kids who come his way.  His tough squad includes Detectives Lindsay (Sophia Bush)–one of the kids Voight rescued, once upon a time–Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer), Dawson (Jon Seda), and undercover specialist Olinsky (Elias Koteas).  Voight also has an officious, bureaucratic adversary on the force, who was indirectly responsible for the death of one of Voight’s detectives.  At the close of the pilot, Dawson’s young son was abducted by a Colombian cartel whose path the squad had crossed.

Episode 2:  Just how tough is Hank Voight?  When one of the abductors of Dawson’s son is brought in, it’s Voight who has to convince Dawson to beat the man in order to get crucial information out of him.

The second episode of Chicago PD, written by Chicago Fire creators Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, and directed by Joe Chappelle, was essentially the second half of a 2-hour premiere, almost entirely taken up with the hunt for Dawson’s son.  In the usual version of this story, Dawson would have been at the forefront (in what could be called the Liam Neeson role), but because the priority here was to launch the series, Voight had the limelight and the rest of the squad got almost as much attention as Dawson himself.  There weren’t any surprises along the way (that bad guy started squealing after just a punch or two from Dawson, so no one had to worry about actual “torture” being committed), and that’s the Dick Wolf way.  A climactic revelation that Voight had only been allowed to rejoin the force after his release from prison in exchange for becoming a fink for Internal Affairs didn’t have a lot of impact, since he made it clear that he didn’t really intend to do much cooperating.

Apart from Beghe, the only member of the cast to make any kind of impression was Sophia Bush, as Voight’s protege, although we know that Seda and Koteas are fine actors who will be able to do all that’s asked of them (and probably more).  The one breath of fresh air came from guest star Amy Morton, as a desk sergeant who demanded obeisance and looked like she might be able to take Voight in a fair fight.  Even compared to a straightforward cable procedural like Major Crimes, Chicago PD lacks much in the way of personality, with all its effort so far pushed toward Voight’s raspy commands, aside from the scenes of Dawson’s worried family and a brief indication that another cop’s engagement is probably on thin ice.  This is a show for people who like to watch police chase bad guys down alleys and on stairways.

Chicago PD had an OK start in the ratings last week at 2.0 in 18-49s, but it was carefully scheduled so as not to have to face CSI; its real test will come tonight.  There will always be an audience for this kind of no-frills procedural, and the question is whether it’s still large enough to support a broadcast network hour.  We’ll find out soon enough.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  CSI Is In Its 14th Season, and It Feels More Modern Than This


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."