January 9, 2014

THE SKED Series Premiere Review: “Chicago PD”


CHICAGO PD:  Wednesday 10PM on NBC – If Nothing Else Is On…

This season, NBC went retro in a big way with its new series, from its Don’t you still love Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes? comedies to its Doesn’t anyone remember Ironside? dramas (The Blacklist, of course, being the single exception), and it doesn’t get more retro than a Dick Wolf cop show.  CHICAGO PD is a spin-off of the only moderately successful Chicago Fire (a few of the PD characters were introduced on Fire, and some Fire regulars make fleeting appearances in the PD premiere), and unlike the more high-tech procedurals that populate most network schedules these days, it’d be proud to be called your father’s cop show.

Although Chicago PD‘s hero, Sergeant Voight (Jason Beghe), is a throw-away-the-book, forget-the-rules kind of gravelly-voiced badass, the series itself follows the book religiously.  That starts with Voight himself, who was a crooked cop on Fire and went to jail for it, but has been expeditiously released to become a merely grimly determined one here, with a good heart.  (He rescues a kid from gang life in the premiere, and we’ve given to understand it’s not the first time he’s done that.)  His squad includes family man Dawson (Jon Seda, whose character also stems from Fire), gorgeous yet streetwise Lindsay (Sophia Bush) and grungy Olinsky (Elias Koteas), who seems intended as a distant callback to Belker on Hill Street Blues (where Dick Wolf got his start), with the recurring gag of his being so undercover that Voight doesn’t even know when he’s there.

The premiere (Fire creators Michael Brandt and Derek Haas get a “developed by” credit here, with “created by” going to Wolf and Matt Olmstead), written by Olmstead and directed by Michael Slovis, tries to juice things up with some fairly graphic beheadings at the hands of a Colombian cartel assassin known as “The Octopus,” but it tells a very standard procedural story, complete with the hostile bureaucratic cop who gets in the way of Voight’s investigation.  In the last act, the show pulls the old this-time-it’s-personal pilot trick of killing off a character who’d previously looked like a regular and ending with a cliffhanger, as Dawson’s son is abducted by the Octopus’s people, which may or may not goose next week’s ratings.

Chicago PD is, god knows, better than the short-lived Ironside, and for those who want their police dramas old-fashioned, there are some things to recommend it.  The veteran Beghe is a strong, darkly heroic presence, Seda (a long way from Treme) is a fine actor, and there are interesting people lurking around the edges, like the excellent stage actress Amy Morton as a bitchy desk sergeant.  Dealing with a single squad of cops, rather than the various fire and paramedic units of Fire, makes things simpler and more focused than on the parent series.  Wolf and company keep the pace moving and the women almost as macho as the men.  There isn’t going to be anything surprising or challenging here, and that should suit the Dick Wolf audience just fine–they want their meat and potatoes, and Chicago PD offers an early-bird special helping.

The bar isn’t high for Chicago PD in the ratings department.  It can hardly help but do better than Ironside, and NBC has proven itself satisfied with the high 1s Fire was getting in the Wednesday 10PM slot last season, when it too had Wolf’s SVU as a lead-in.  If NBC really wants to be known as the network of older-skewing, unexciting programmers while the rest of television is exploding around it, this is the way to get it done.


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."