Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pilot Review: Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire (Wednesdays at 10:00 on NBC; Premieres October 10)

There really isn't much to say about a show like Chicago Fire. Its pilot was thrilling and action-packed, but it's not the kind of show you watch for depth or intrigue. You watch it to see hot guys without shirts and stuff exploding.

The barebones plot of the new series produced by Law & Order creator Dick Wolf centers around the tense relationship between a group of firefighters and a rescue squad, both of whom operate out of the same firehouse in Chicago. The rift is widened in the first few minutes by the loss of a fireman and friend to both squads; now the leader of the firefighters, Lt. Casey (Jesse Spencer, House), and the leader of the rescue squad, Lt. Severide (Taylor Kinney, The Vampire Diaries), are at each other's throats constantly.

That's it. It's more of a cast of characters than a show with a story to follow. There are two female ambulance drivers to balance out the testosterone, but the rest of the cast is comprised of firefighters and rescue team workers, each with the slightest of backstories: one lost his house (Sex and the City's David Eigenberg), one is engaged but moved into his own house, one is hiding a medical issue, one is the rookie, etc. The whole thing is kind of a rehash of Third Watch, minus the police officers, with a dash of Rescue Me, minus the artistry.

The visuals of Chicago Fire are why anyone is going to tune in. There are two scenes which take place inside burning buildings, and both are thrillingly shot. The climactic scene in which Casey and Severide find themselves helping each other out of a helpless situation is everything a viewer could ask of a firefighting show: emotional, tense and exciting. Another scene in which a young girl is pulled from a crumpled car is similarly engrossing. The direction under Jeffrey Nachmanoff (Homeland) is tight, and the editing is especially good; the close-ups and quick cuts add to the tension and suspense, much more so than the standard script and performances. Speaking of which, there are no standouts here, and there don't really need to be. Everyone is pulling his or her weight equally; no one is running ahead of the pack, but no one is lagging behind either. As the characters, of which there are many, become more flesh-and-bone, I would expect that to change.

And that's about it. Chicago Fire isn't breaking new ground or anything, but it's an adrenaline-fueld hour. There's a lot to enjoy, if not to love, about it. What it comes down to is how you feel about the claim I made above. If you want to watch a show with a bunch of buff-yet-sensitive guys working out, fighting, and putting out fires, then Chicago Fire is for you.

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