Television Review

‘Chicago Fire’: emergency without the urgency

Taylor Kinney (left), as Kelly Severide, and Jesse Spencer, as Matthew Casey, enjoy some down time at the fire station.
Taylor Kinney (left), as Kelly Severide, and Jesse Spencer, as Matthew Casey, enjoy some down time at the fire station.

It’s hard to work up a big hate or a big love for “Chicago Fire.” The new NBC series is a garden-variety action procedural, with a crew of EZ-to-read characters and story lines that start at A and finish exactly where you expect them to, at Zzz.

It’s an awful lot like “Third Watch,” the NBC series that ran from 1999 to 2005, although “Chicago Fire” doesn’t bother much with cops as it leans heavily on firefighters and paramedics. There is nothing exceptional or original about the show, other than the fact that it gives the world a fresh opportunity to gawk at Lady Gaga’s boyfriend, Taylor Kinney, who plays one of the firefighters. He’s the hot one who isn’t Jesse Spencer from “House.” In the coming weeks, of course, each of them will be allowed to remove his shirt for no particular reason.

The ensemble is filled with types, all of them of the fearless sort. Naturally, you’ve got a rookie firefighter, Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett), who gets mildly hazed by the guys at the station. You’ve got a gruff but kind leader, Chief Boden (Eamonn Walker from “Oz”), who mentors Peter. And you’ve got the salt-of-the-earth jokester, Christopher Herrmann (David Eigenberg from “Sex and the City”). Kinney, as Kelly Severide, and Spencer, as Matthew Casey, are the show’s main event, as they brood like a pair of models in a shadowy Vanity Fair perfume ad. One of their colleagues dies in the first moments of the premiere, and they are at odds over how it happened. The sullen faces begin. But still, you see longing in their eyes. These bros will be mancing again soon, I’m sure.


There are women here and there on “Chicago Fire,” too, although the emphasis is definitely on the dudes. One paramedic, the dedicated Gabriela Dawson (Monica Raymund), may have a crush on one of the firefighters, and the other, Leslie Shay (Lauren German), is a lesbian.

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Wednesday, they make a mistake with a patient after a rescue operation, and that plot line will probably continue as the season progresses, if the show makes it beyond the first few episodes. Also unfolding: Matthew’s crumbling relationship with Hallie (Teri Reeves), a hospital resident, and Christopher’s financial problems, which are forcing him and his family to move in with his in-laws.

The show, Wednesday night at 10 on Channel 7, is from Dick Wolf, the lord of the “Law & Order” franchise. Wolf is probably dreaming of a future filled with “New York Fire,” “Boston Fire,” and “Miami Fire,” and he may just get it. “Chicago Fire” could win over viewers who miss the fast-paced action of “ER,” and who love reassuring stories of heroism by the people who save our lives. In the premiere, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel makes a non-speaking cameo appearance as a fire burns in a building, to bestow warm and fuzzies on the team. The music swells aggressively, in case we didn’t realize we were already supposed to be feeling inspired by all the bravery.

Obviously, “Chicago Fire” is a far cry from “Rescue Me,” Denis Leary’s angry, satirical firefighter series. It’s a relatively humorless piece of work, and the acting is consistently average. Even the scenes set inside burning structures are only mildly engaging. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it, but then there’s nothing very right about it

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Matthew