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‘Chicago P.D.’ looks to follow ‘Chicago Fire’s’ lead with tonight's debut

Spinning off a TV series is nothing new, but spinning one off after just one season is virtually unheard of! However “Chicago Fire” has always been the exception to the rule and that is why its spin-off “Chicago P.D.” will launch tonight with an extra advantage.

"Chicago P.D." airs on NBC
"Chicago P.D." airs on NBC
NBC

When “Chicago Fire” first launched in 2012, it did so on the same night as the series debuts of “Nashville” and “Arrow.” As a result it was basically an afterthought, after all Mrs. Coach’s return to broadcast TV and the much buzzed about debut of the Emerald Archer were seen from the get go as two of the season’s hottest projects. Reviews ended up being so-so at best for “Law & Order” guru Dick Wolf’s latest project and many quietly began discussing the odds on when NBC would consider pulling the plug.

Yet a funny thing happened on the way to cancellation …”Fire” blazed in the ratings.

A few weeks in the series earned back all of the drop-off it had seen from its premiere and began making enough noise for people to listen. Audiences realized it wasn’t just another generic genre procedural with an insanely unrealistically hot cast. The acting was solid, the concept was crisp and the ensemble clicked. Based on yesterday’s opening round of early reviews, the same can be said about “Chicago P.D.”

“But the key to the Wolf formula isn't "catch the bad guy in the first half hour, put him on trial the second." It's about characters, and both "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago PD" are filled with them.” - San Francisco Chronicle

“Dick Wolf is no stranger to taking a success — even a moderate one — and spinning it off into franchises. So “Chicago Fire,” his NBC drama, begets “Chicago PD,” a series distinguished primarily by its solid casting and Jason Beghe’s performance….” – Variety

Beghe is the real star of “Chicago P.D.” and a major plus for the series is that his character already has been built out via his role on “Chicago Fire.” Beghe debuted in the second episode of the show’s first season as Hank Voight, a dirty cop who took offense when he couldn’t bribe his way into fixing a DUI charge involving his son. Over the first real “Fire” arc, he tormented Jessie Spenser’s “Dudley Do-Right” type character Matthew Casey and became a truly despicable villain in the process.

Yet, the further audiences went down the rabbit hole with Voight, the more they found they actually liked having him around. Even on “P.D.” producers don’t fully give viewers the illusion Voight’s become fully an honest cop. While he’s certain taken steps to redeem his early actions, he’s got an edge to him that comes from the giant chip on his shoulder and a surprising amount of loyalty and dedication to his city.

Balancing out Voight is another familiar character in Antonio Dawson (“Treme’s” Jon Seda). On “Fire” Dawson is the brother of EMT Gabriella Dawson, played by the smoldering Monica Raymund who is expected to crossover from time to time. Antonio is everything Voight isn’t and was even responsible for having him (briefly) being jailed. Watching these two form a uneasy alliance is going to be a big draw for viewers.

In addition just as “Fire” is a true ensemble headed up by “House’s” Spencer and “Vampire Diaries” alum Taylor Kinney, “P.D.” is a true ensemble with a talented array of actors surrounding Beghe and Seda. “One Tree Hill” star Sophia Bush, “The 4400’s” Patrick John Flueger and “The Killing’s” Elias Koteas are among the supporting players and if “P.D.” is like “Fire,” they won’t just be relegated to the background. Every character on the show will serve a larger purpose than chewing up filler time.

Speaking of time, “P.D.” incidentally will launch in “Fire’s” old Wednesday’s at 10 p.m. EST timeslot. Last year’s 10 p.m. (and honestly this year’s 10 p.m. competition) isn’t especially strong, which means “P.D.” should be able to capture the same audience.

With “The Blacklist” on Mondays, “Fire” on Tuesdays and now “P.D.” on Wednesdays, NBC looks to be in a very strong power position in a time period it once fully abandoned. Trust us; the irony is not lost on viewers or the network. Either way, this going to be a solid show and like its sibling one well worth your time.

“Chicago P.D.” debuts tonight at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.