“Looks like we’re gonna meet the mayor after all.” Sort of. When Rahm Emanuel makes an appearance near the end of the first episode of Chicago Fire, the camera swings around his handshake with the battalion chief so it looks momentous, but as he speaks, the scene cuts to a wide shot and the soundtrack music overwhelms the dialogue, the first responders’ sirens, and the ongoing hosing. It’s the sort of melodramatic overkill that besets the show, which by this point has become a checklist of clichés. You’ve got the comrade lost in the first five minutes; the combative-and-chiseled co-lieutenants, Casey (Jesse Spencer) and Severide (Taylor Kinney); the newbie Mills (Charlie Barnett), the strained relationship (Casey and his medical resident almost-fiancée Hallie [Teri Reeves]); the wise and financially harried vet Herrmann (David Eigenberg); the inspirational hard-ass station boss Boden (Eamonn Walker); the pair of pretty paramedics Dawson (Monica Raymund) and Shay (Lauren German). As for introductory events, you’ve got the floor collapsing in flames, the jaws-of-life rescue, the gay character reveal, and the station house cooking-bonding scene. And oh yes, a decision to go off protocol to save someone’s life, followed by trouble with administrators.
It doesn’t help that the players are all beautiful and ripped, that the women wear their hair long and loose on the job, that the firefighters’ arrival on one scene is introduced by one gazing up at the blazing building and intoning, “This is bad, bad, bad,” so you’re sure he’s the hero who will be imperiled here, or that close-ups of grizzled and taciturn males make exceptionally clear the Feelings They Cannot Express.
“We can’t lose another one,” asserts one decent fellow to his compatriots, anxiously gathered to wait for word at the hospital. Alas. While it’s beautifully shot and lavishes resources on the action scenes, Chicago Fire needs to be smarter than this.