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Dick Wolf CHICAGO FIRE Promises Strong Writing
Consider me somewhat swayed toward the new project from veteran TV-franchise creator, Dick Wolf. Chicago Fire sounded like the typical process-heavy cookie cutter that Wolf has claimed his fame with – a cast of schlock stereotypes running around with $400 haircuts, solving crime with psuedo-science. And why shouldn’t it be? American audiences get off on that fast food drama by the millions.
Still, when this Mohammed of Mega-TV came down from the mountain recently, speaking about Chicago Fire at NBC’s segment of the Television Critics Association (TCA), I caught a whiff of a Wolf I’d almost forgotten: The canny, character-focused dude who had me so emotionally invested in George Dzundza’s husky detective that it bummed me out for weeks when he got capped.
In short, Wolf swore up and down that Chicago Fire wasn’t going to be primarily “external,” or focused on the who-done-it element of fighting fires. He promised a concentration on personality akin to Rescue Me, Denis Leary’s dynamite NYFD show from FX. Chicago Fire may smack of a potential tribble-like franchise – Miami Fire, NYC Fire, Muskogee Fire – but for now, Wolf claims the show will be about interpersonal drama, not incendiary eye candy.
Referencing Hill Street Blues and early ER as his inspiration, Wolf declared, “These shows are never written down to the audience. It all goes back to the writing. There’s never been a good show with bad writing, and there’s few bad shows with good writing. Quality does out…The secret of success on television is writing. That’s it.”
My first reaction was, “Of course he’d say that.” After all, what chump would trot out to the critics and tell them, “Yeah, it’s really just a high-action blast-fest for the slobs.”
But then I remembered, Wolf actually has the chops to make good on his promise. Law & Order started off strong, with aging acting veterans performing stories of gray morality. The format of having the “law” enforcement section first, and the “order” of the court in the latter half, was formulaic, but the stories weren’t.
So maybe I want to believe Dick Wolf. Chicago Fire could really find a niche as a firefighter’s Hill Street Blues, a place Rescue Me could never quite root itself given that it was too outrageous. And from what we hear of the casting, with veteran Jason Beghe set to portray a corrupt anti-gang cop on the show, focus on people and not procedure does seem to be in the cards.
Here’s hoping Wolf proves my suspicions wrong, and truly dedicates Chicago Fire to a great first season of TV, rather than a nine-season haul as a backdraft-filled procedural.