Is Chicago PD Arresting?
The Chicago Fire spinoff's pilot is charged with reckless endangerment of cop-show tropes…but the jury's still out.
What is this thing?
Chicago Fire had a successful enough debut season that the Peacock decided to spin it off into its cop equivalent, Chicago PD. It will probably not shock you speechless to learn that it's about an elite Chicago police unit -- nor that it is headed by "a man not against crossing legal and ethical lines" to protect his city. That's Hank Voight (Jason "Melrose Matt's Closeted Navy Boyf" Beghe, sounding like he gargled with Christian Bale's Batman). The unit is the Intelligence Unit, and while the pilot isn't exactly keen to explain what the unit does/is for, we do know that the district commander, played by Robert Wisdom, is just waiting for Voight to fuck up again so he can put Voight back in jail. …Okay, the former Bunny Colvin actually says "throw you off a roof"; bagatelles.
Point is: best of the best, rule-breakers, blah blah blah.
It's midseason; anything with badges and Dick Wolf's name on it is catnip to NBC programming execs.
What's its pedigree?
As mentioned above, Chicago PD is spun off from Chicago Fire, with a backdoor pilot last spring and another backdoor character pilot of sorts in its second season that introduced Jesse Lee "Travis Alexander" Soffer. Producers include Wolf; various producers of both CF and 3:10 to Yuma (good flick; weird Venn); and Matt Olmstead, who's behind both CF and Breakout Kings, which is interesting -- and not in a promising way, because BK came out gangbusters with a cool concept and exciting pilot, did a little cast reshuffling before the second ep, and went from "solid B/B-minus" to "cop-cliché Mad Libs" in the space of three episodes.
Credits cast includes Beghe, Soffer, Sophia Bush, Archie Kao as the gadgets guy, and The Portrait of Dorian Seda. …Well, I'm sorry, but Jon Seda is just not aging, at all. He's got some greys at the hairline here, but I suspect they came from a can.
The pilot is well shot thanks to Breaking Bad cinematog Michael Slovis, but I suppose we can't get used to that unless he keeps losing at cards.
You know…I don't know quite how to explain it, but pilots like this one remind me, in a way, of Galaxy Quest, and the Thermians seeing the original show as "the historical documents" -- all the correct parts are there, assembled in roughly the correct order, but not facing the point? Chicago PD's creative team knows how to build a police procedural, but it includes so many pro-forma elements -- the mysterious, hinted-at relationship between Voight and his protégé, Erin Lindsay (Bush); the territorial scuffle between the Intelligence Unit and…Major Crimes? Homicide? I don't think we're told, and it's just a set-up so that Melissa Sagemiller's character can get shot and Voight can lunge at his smug counterpart all AND NOW SHE'S DEAD YOU MARTINET ARE YOU SATISFIED HUH ARE YOU™; a Talking Villain who runs his fingertips through a lighter flame to show the viewer how take-no-prisoners evil he is (the grotzky shot of his beheaded victim two scenes later pretty much got that job done, thanks ever so); Voight's rapport with lost kids -- that it's hard to care about these people and their stories when the writers don't seem to care much about setting them apart from any number of other, superior procedural properties.
And could we please have one -- one! -- cop who does play by the rules? Just puts his/her head down, researches the case, finds the culprits, and isn't walking spectrum-disorder PSA on top of it? The Eames Files, something like that? Lacey Returns? Not every cop-tagonist has to be a loose-cannon kookball.
…Not that it's really going to matter. The casting section of the show's Wikipedia page is like the script of Noises Off with all the comings and goings and now where did Oi leave the sahhhhh-dines; when actors leave a project pre-pilot because of "creative differences," that's…not great, Bahb.
The actors who remain give me some hope, including Soffer, who appears to have worked on his Chicago accent but isn't doing the "see how hard I worked on my Chicago accent" thing; yeah, it's "that Jodi Arias movie," but…he was good in that Jodi Arias movie, and he somehow sells a scene here in which he takes off his gun and badge and punches a dude who's catcalling his partner on the street (she can't handle that herself? they can't just igno-- uy, forget it). Patrick Flueger as recruit Ruzak is very natural. And David Aron Damane as Voight's CI (and maybe also a cop?) Maurice Owens is so charismatic and fun to watch, I hope they make his role bigger. Damane hasn't worked much in film/TV, but I remembered him from a red-herring part in an SVU from like ten years ago. Bush has very dumb, non-credible lines to play and plays them like a boss. It's entirely possible that, like its parent Fire, PD could use its top-notch cast to make its indifferent writing palatable.
Prince Beghe needs a Luden, though, big-time.
I don't watch Fire on the reg, but when I do, it's fine, and even kind of fun thanks to the silent-movie acting. PD inherited Fire's embarrassingly weak grasp of "humor" -- viz. that hideous subplot with the desk sergeant sending a rookie uni to pry a pinky ring off her dead cousin's body at the morgue -- but you can fast-forward that stuff, and PD may also inherit Fire's total commitment to high-stakes self-seriousness and become an acceptable way to pass the time in a hotel room. I'll check out the second episode to see if it settles down with the Shield homages and the expositioning, but the second coming of Homicide it ain't, Seda notwithstanding.