[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: "Chicago Fire" (NBC)
The Pitch:"Let's do a network-friendly version of 'Rescue Me.'" "So 'Rescue Me' only without the mature themes, instantly vivid characters, boundary-pushing language and humor?" "Yup. Those weren't exactly essential, were they?" "As long as we've got fires, it's all good."
Quick Response: A couple years back -- I remember this and maybe one or two viewers do as well -- NBC had an EMT drama called "Trauma." It had strong production values and a very solid cast and it was the kind of show which, if it had had a cable show's interest in character, could have possibly worked. Instead, I tuned out after three or four increasingly generic episodes. [I heard "Trauma" got a little better towards the end, but I needed something sooner.] Well, the Dick Wolf produced "Chicago Fire" is like "Trauma," only even more desperately in need of a cable sensibility, especially given how well similar terrain was covered in "Rescue Me." Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, the "Chicago Fire" has at least one decently executed inferno sequence that might really be a nail-biter if you cared an iota about any of the characters whose lives are ostensibly in jeopardy. Dick Wolf dramas have often struggled with the need/imperative to display deserved respect for the people in difficult and honorable professions, while simultaneously capturing the colorful ways people in those professions act. Here, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas' script gets bogged down in firehouse jurisdictional squabbles and barely sketched character details and then wallows in an even more frustrating self-seriousness. Jesse Spencer, battling an accent that probably should be dropped entirely, suffers most from the pilot's earnestness, which allows him to be frequently upstaged by "Vampire Diaries" veteran Taylor Kinney, who has charisma to burn. Yeah. I went there. And i feel awful about it. Sorry. This will become The Taylor Kinney Show if Spencer doesn't watch out. I'd be OK with that, but I'd rather watch The Eamonn Walker Show and, as is the case in nearly everything he does, Walker is underserved in the pilot and destined to be underserved in the series. Inevitably. The pilot could also stand to get more use from the often interesting Monica Raymund and several other familiar faces. The pilot sent to critics was at least two or three minutes shorter than the usual network drama. The right two or three character-based minutes could actually make a huge difference.
Desire To Watch Again: Very little. Like i said, there are actors I like in "Chicago Fire," but not actors I like enough to weed through the generic procedural stuff in the hopes that the character moments are better done in subsequent episodes. The pilot isn't an exciting version on the Dick Wolf formula and the version of "Chicago Fire" that I'd watch regularly isn't the sort of show Wolf has ever wanted to make.
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries