On Wednesday night, the latest entry from uber-producer Dick Wolf hits the air on NBC. “Chicago PD,” a spin-off of the successful “Chicago Fire,” revolves around the Chicago Police Department’s District 21. Within that division are uniformed cops who patrol the beat and The Intelligence Unit which combats the city’s major offenses, such as organized crime, drug trafficking and high-profile murders.
The Intelligence Unit is led by Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe), a character very reminiscent of “The Shield’s” Vic Mackey in that he walks a fine line between good and evil as his ultimate goal is the pursuit of justice - by any means necessary.
Working with him in the division are young recruit Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush), Detective Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) and veteran officer Alvin Olinsky (Elias Koteas).
While connected to “Chicago Fire” by theme and proximity, Wolf explains that “Chicago PD” is “not a clone of ‘Fire,’ but it’s definitely a sibling.”
Crossovers between the shows will occur according to Matt Olmstead, Executive Producer on both “CF” and “CPD.” “Dick has termed it ‘Dicken’s London,’ meaning that we’ll see characters in little pops here and then and then in bigger crossover storylines,” explains Olmstead.
He goes on to say that the bar featured in “CF” will play a role in “CPD” as well. “ 'Molly’s' has basically become the watering hold for both shows. We love that because we like having those little drops of connected DNA between the shows.”
Wolf goes on to clarify that the link between the two fictional departments is quite unbelievable. “It’s a little bit of art imitating life because the precinct is actually a block and a half away from the real firehouse that we use as the exterior of Firehouse 51. In real life they are within spitting distance of each other. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that these people would interact with each other on an almost daily basis.”
But in the world of TV, no matter how closely related a show is to another successful series, it still has to stand on its own.
In the case of “Chicago PD,” the first few episodes struggle a bit under the weight of having to lay the necessary groundwork for what’s to come, but this is true of any new show. Fortunately, those rough edges are very soon smoothed out and everything within the show starts to fall into a comfortable rhythm.
There’s certainly no lack of action from the get-go on “CPD” with a shocking shooting and a tense hostage situation taking place within the first few episodes. Fans of “Hill Street Blues” might notice a similarity in something that happens in the “CPD” pilot that also took place in the pilot of that classic show. (I won’t spoil it here but I’m sure there will be discussion about it warranting a future, post so look for that.)
The show is very well cast (by Wolf Films stellar vet Jonathan Strauss) with every character more than credible in his or her role. And, it’s very nice to see age diverse casting among the principals with a healthy mix of young talent interacting perfectly with exemplary actors who’ve perfected their craft through a few more years of hearty work. It’s a pleasure to watch Jason Benghe, Elias Koteas along with Amy Morton, as the precinct Desk Sergeant, working in tandem with the newest recruits.
Wolf is pleased with the chemistry of the cast as well, explaining, “When we started ‘CPD’ my speech to the cast is that they should look to ‘CF’ to see the way an ensemble not only is working but is supposed to work. There’s nobody counting lines, nobody counting who gets how many scenes. It’s what serves the story. It’s good having people that are basically the same generation altogether too. There is some age separation, but the authority figures are within a decade of the youngest employees so the generation gap is really very slight.”
As evidenced by his enormous success, Wolf clearly knows a thing or two about creating dynamic television that viewers will not only watch but that they will cling too. This latest incarnation of the Wolf brand falls perfectly into that mold.
“Chicago PD” premieres Wednesday night at 10/9c on NBC..