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Editor's Note
by Rick Markley, editor-in-chief

'Chicago Fire's' smoldering start

"Chicago Fire's" premiere shows its good and bad; time will tell which will dominate

By Rick Markley, FR1 Editor-in-chief

Before delving into the premiere of "Chicago Fire," two confessions are in order.

Confession one: I'm a homer — like the local sports announcer who only sees the positives in his home team's play. As a lifelong native of the Chicago area, I like Chicago; I like it a lot.

I've spent time in a good number of cities, and despite its many flaws, Chicago is my favorite; it is my home. Likewise for the Chicago Fire Department, it's the one I look up to and admire as a firefighter.

So on a purely personal level, I want "Chicago Fire" to be a great show. I am in no way an objective observer.

Confession two: I do not watch much television, and when I do it is typically not primetime, network stuff. I'm not the best person to predict whether or not a television show will have mass appeal — or at least enough appeal to keep it from being cancelled.

Character development
I do know that after watching the first episode of "Chicago Fire," several things struck me. The first, and in my mind most important, is how little the characters resonated with me.

Although a firefighter, I am far from an expert. I am, however, trained in how to make a good story. Whether it's a book, movie, television program or whatever form a story may take, I look at how much I think about the characters once the story ends.

"Chicago Fire" characters failed to draw me in; I didn't, and still don't, find myself caring about what happens to them. Part of that may be due to the show giving me too much of the characters' back story in the first episode; that may be a normal characteristic of a premiere — I don't watch enough TV to know.

I did appreciate the edgy and somewhat biting nature of the characters' interactions with each other. That came across as authentic Chicago.

If the show takes on a sort of "Grey's Anatomy" feel, where the characters' personal lives are given greater emphasis than their professional lives, well-developed characters will be a must. The opposite, and for me more desirable, approach would be to make the characters' professional lives the focal point.

Focusing on the professional lives is something Executive Producer Dick Wolf did well with his original "Law and Order" show. However, Wolf, in a video clip on NBC's website, says the focus for "Chicago Fire" will be on personal lives with their professional lives as intersecting points; he compared it to "ER" set in a fire station.

From the fireground
Another thing that struck me were the firefighting and EMS scenes. The show's promotional material plays up how much effort went into creating firefighting authenticity; this may be the case.

But, I prefer not to believe that the fire department I look up to has its crew inside burning buildings sans helmets and SCBA. I prefer to believe that the directors didn't want to hide good-looking actors behind facepieces.

I also prefer not to believe that CFD would begin vent, enter and search without doing a 360-degree size up, would approach an MVC without gloves, or would fail to stabilize a victim's spine.

These scenes might be ripped from the pages of firefighter memory, but I hope not. If so, I want to believe they are distant memories and not current practices. Again, I'm an unapologetic homer.

Great effects
At the end of the day, "Chicago Fire" is a fictional television show, and we shouldn't get too hung up on the authenticity factor. The show did a tremendous job of using special effects to create believable fire scenes.

Visually, the show also does a great job of creating tension and urgency during the fire and EMS scenes. The camera angles, shifting points of view and visual jerkiness of how those scenes were shot gives you a real sense of the in-the-moment adrenalin rush.

That alone may be reason enough to watch.

It doesn't appear that "Chicago Fire" will become another "Trauma," which prompted letters of condemnation from fire and EMS organizations when it was first aired. And that, is a relief.

For me, my love for the city and its fire department are pitted against my inclination not to watch television. To get me, NBC will have to present deep, well-developed characters, something the premiere lacked.

But, I am after all a homer, and will hold out hope for deeper characters while enjoying the very cool action scenes.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Jeff Magnifico Jeff Magnifico Wednesday, October 10, 2012 10:40:52 PM Chicago Fire was very unrealistic! If you have to film a story on firefighters do it right! No One goes to a roof of a burning building without SCBA! No One puts a needle in a heart and they did not even place the child or mother in c-collar and backboard! You need me to write this show! I know there will never be a show like Emergency ever! They also copied things from Ladder 49 and Backdraft!
Bret Deschapelles Bret Deschapelles Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:26:37 PM I want to learn from everything.
Jeff Allen Jeff Allen Thursday, October 11, 2012 4:56:53 AM Give them a chance and maybe the show will straighten out. It's tough getting a good sell on TV with accuracy without it being a reality show. Backdraft was a bit success and we all know how dead we'd be if we practiced what we saw in that movie. I think it would be great to do a show on a smaller department that is very busy dealing with the unusual incidents we get, or might get to handle, rather than always focusing on Chicago or New York or LA. But that's just my opinion. Stay safe.
Alan Hickey Alan Hickey Thursday, October 11, 2012 5:31:35 AM I am not one for watching "soap operas", and that is what this looks like...a Prime Time Soap Opera. If you're making a show called Chicago Fire (or any other city for that matter), focus on the JOB and make sure it is correct. I couldn't care less about their personal lives, that is the "soap opera" part. Rescue Me was ruined by the "off duty" "soap opera" crap (more and more personal "hankey pankey", and less and less JOB), and it looks like this show will follow suit.
David Kearney David Kearney Thursday, October 11, 2012 8:19:29 AM ChicagoFire sucked. It painted the fire service as rule breaking cowboys. This show will only hurt our image and have the public placing unrealistic expectations on us. We really need a program that shows it like it is. Isn't what we do and how we REALLY do it exciting enough? #nbc #fail
Ray Clothier Ray Clothier Thursday, October 11, 2012 9:58:02 AM Horrible. Sucked. Unrealistic. Terribly inaccurate and no depth of character. I think that pretty much sums it up. Hope it gets better but not expecting it to do so.
Dave Connor Dave Connor Thursday, October 11, 2012 3:21:17 PM The irritating part is, it could be technically correct and still entertaining for the viewers. The extrication was a disgrace. As a BC who has lost and destroyed my share of portable radios, maybe their guy (who mostly parents...) is on to something...
Angie Gauthier Angie Gauthier Thursday, October 11, 2012 4:06:09 PM but the captains are smoken hot ! lol
Jack Nelson Jack Nelson Thursday, October 11, 2012 6:09:53 PM I agree it was a slow start, started off like "back draft" with out the true ceremonial funeral. service which is always very stirring & a strong reminder of the dangers that lurk on every call. Hopefully it will straighten itself out. SO, how many real FF/chiefs were used as advisors to help this real?
Zane Fitzwater Zane Fitzwater Friday, October 12, 2012 12:28:15 AM Was I the only one that thought the MVC was hard to watch seeing how unsafe job they did on that scene?
Kody Thomas Kody Thomas Friday, October 12, 2012 3:01:36 AM It wasn't up to par. Several things wrong, but hey, it's a tv show, it's gonna be different. Just wish it would've been more life like. But it was pretty good.
Eric Wiler Eric Wiler Friday, October 12, 2012 6:03:35 AM It's a tv show people.
Jeff Platt Jeff Platt Friday, October 12, 2012 6:42:42 PM It was flat out terrible !! I made it through around 10 mins and turned it off.
Saturday, October 13, 2012 6:07:12 PM Chicago Fire IS NOT Law and the producer might think. I was disappointed as I watched, paying more attention to the obvious flaws I saw as a former firefighter. Firefighters...even in Chicago know the difference between this show, and the REALITY.
Tony Lohrman Tony Lohrman Monday, October 15, 2012 7:25:22 AM The truth is this is entertainment and not a training show. The other truth is that they hired a technical advisor to advise. Ironically this is the same guy who did Backdraft. According to the October Firehouse Magazine article (pg 24), Taylor Kinney who plays Kelly Severide stated that even though its entertainment, there's a lot of respect and honor that is going into the show. "The last thing that anybody wants is to walk by a firehouse after it airs and have guys say that's not the way to do it." GUESS WHAT TAYLOR...That's not the way to do it. Shooting up drugs in the bathroom, poor patient handling, growing beards, etc. This was just the first show. What's next?
Dan Raymond Dan Raymond Monday, October 15, 2012 7:45:25 AM Correct Tony
Kecia Hutson Kecia Hutson Monday, October 15, 2012 7:45:56 AM No kidding, that show will NOT be on my TV again. TERRIBLE
Selina Rodriguez Selina Rodriguez Monday, October 15, 2012 7:48:33 AM Shooting up in the bathroom was appalling to see! That just told lay persons exactly what they think we do on the job! In my opinion, that just ruined our reputation! Maybe that is the reason why our local govt agencies won't give us a raise or the respect we deserve! Maybe that is why we make 11$ an hour! They watch these shows and that is what they see!
Laurie Reynolds Laurie Reynolds Monday, October 15, 2012 10:59:34 PM Thanks for the heads up
Christopher J Plummer Christopher J Plummer Tuesday, February 19, 2013 6:47:53 PM It's a tv show guys it's suppossed to be a drama slash soap opera. Reality isn't entertaining, how about all the cop shows that are on do you think the average cop sees that much action or fires his weapon in a chase as much as we see on tv. No, ask a cop 90 percent of their day is spent doing paperwork and riding around in their cruiser. In order for a show to keep the average person glued to the tv this is what it has to look like. As tony said this isn't a training video.
Justin Moran Justin Moran Sunday, October 26, 2014 12:33:07 PM I'm pretty sure when you call 911 and say there's smoke showing or a house on fire dispatch sends more then one house my town the whole dept would go not just two trucks and when they arrive one firefighter would do a 360 shutting the gas off to the house .then it would take about well let's see venting, search ,RIT,hose,ladder,,etc two trucks one ambulance and a battalion Chief cannot do all that

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