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Chicago Fire - First episode review

Chicago Fire

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

YOU can tell from the first episode of glossy new drama Chicago Fire that the producers are looking to set it up as the firefighting equivalent of ER and Grey’s Anataomy with a little of Backdraft‘s overt patrotism thrown in.

Sadly, the result is decidedly lukewarm and leans towards the worst elements of both Greys and Backdraft rather than the high quality of ER.

Set in a fire house populated by firefighters, paramedics and members of an elite rescue squad, the show began with a tragedy (the death of a colleague) and proceeded to drop in every cliche in the book to establish the ensuing dramas and introduce its various characters.

Primary among them is former House star Jesse Spencer as Casey, the caring and sensitive one of the series, who is struggling to hold down a relationship and keep his team in check.

Then there’s ex-Vampire Diaries bad-boy Taylor Kinney as Severide, a (wouldn’t you know) bad boy struggling with an addiction to painkillers who has fallen out with his former best friend Casey following the opening tragedy and the question of who was to blame.

There’s also ex-Hawaii Five-O co-star Lauren German as Leslie, a lesbian paramedic, who is put through the emotional wringer with her Hispanic partner (Monica Raymund’s Gabriela) over the latter’s decision to stick a needle into a young girl’s heart in a bid to save her.

The nature of the drama was immediate and designed to set pulses racing. But it somehow lacked spark or even authenticity. The actions of the various crews always seemed reckless at best (or contrived to heighten the drama at worst).

For instance, the opening rescue ended in death, a call-out to a car crash atop a bridge involved a bad judgement call and an unlikely act of heroism from the newbie on the crew, and the big set piece fire at the end of the episode placed a further two members of the crew into further mortal danger. It struggled to convince emotionally and felt like a big firework show – all bang and no substance.

Whether future episodes will reign back the macho posturing and concentrate more on the emotion remains to be seen. But on the evidence of this opener, the show’s creators appear more concerned with eye candy than dramatic depth and it came as no surprise to find the buff likes of Spencer and Kinney revealing their six packs when opportunity presented itself (and not necessarily for any good reason).

And then there’s the other temptation that couldn’t be avoided: the need to overdo the schmaltz involving the brotherly code that exists between firemen. Hence, there was the obligatory ‘you go, we go’ moment of someone hanging precariously from a colleague’s arm as other members of the team formed a human chain to save them both, as well as the sight of all team members congregating in hospital to will a stricken colleague back to good health.

We didn’t really need spoon-feeding. But then that’s what this show apparently likes to do, flying in the face of the far more real and more brilliant Rescue Me, which is the real benchmark Chicago Fire should be aspiring to.

At best, this show looks set to become a guilty pleasure, a show so bad it’s fleetingly enjoyable. But given the crowded market-place in which it finds itself in, don’t bet against it falling by the wayside real soon.

Chicago Fire airs on Sky Living on Wednesday nights from 9pm.