Chicago Fire Series Premiere Review: Burn Notice

Chicago Fire S01E01: "Pilot"

"Don't be a crow."

It all started with an emergency, like you'd expect. The truck pulled out, the tell-tale voice of an emergency operator instructed the firefighters and us as to what the fire was, and we were off and running. With a premise like Chicago Fire's, you'd expect a kinetic run through the city with brave souls preparing for battle. After all, lives hung in the balance!

But, no. Clowning around, guys goofing on each other, and people looking downright bored. It completely sapped the urgency. Once they got to the house fire, there was more walking around "with purpose," but it was still just walking around. The operation looked like it was moving at snail's pace, yet it was also filled with activity, like someone with bad breath talking to you in a slow and unending monotone.

And before we even learned everyone's names, someone died.

The teaser encapsulated what was wrong with the whole episode: There were a lot of action sequences that somehow lacked tension, piles of storylines that felt like a wreck, and a lack of connection to most of the characters even though they were enduring some tough situations.

The unofficial leader of Chicago Fire's ensemble cast is Jesse Spencer, who used to play Dr. Chase on House. Here he's Casey, the leader of the Truck Squad. Casey is the least quirky of the group and appears in 90 percent of the scenes. In the battle of Truck Squad versus Rescue Squad (two divisions of the firehouse that seem to have an arbitrary rivalry that far surpasses the month-long dispute between their two leaders), the premiere leaned heavy toward Truck Squad. Casey's only complaint in life is that his girlfriend doesn't want to have kids right away and he does. Well, and his friend died.

But Darden's death—while a major sticking point between Casey and the leader of the Rescue Squad, Kelly (Taylor Kinney, who's seemingly forever doomed to play emergency heroes)—didn't really have a chance to breathe and let the audience connect. With so many characters to introduce and arcs to represent, nothing got any time to shine.

Oh, and Gabriela was maybe going to get taken to court for accidentally piercing a girl's heart, but by the time the doctor at the hospital confirmed everything was good, there was no range of emotion. You never felt like Gabriela was in any real danger or that she was even frustrated by the accusation that she'd done something wrong. The same goes for the chief's boxing match, Herrmann's foreclosure, and a most unnecessary HGH storyline for Kelly. This show lacks any pathos.

So if you don't connect to any of the characters or their myriad situations, you would hope for good action. It's an emergency show after all. But, at some point, Casey told the new guy Pete, "Walk with a purpose. Don't run." Which seems like sage advice where running in a burning building might bring the place down or get you into unnecessary danger. But emergency responders walking around in a fire doesn't exactly have the same high-stakes feel.

Near the end, Casey and Herrmann fell through the floor and had to be rescued by Kelly and, somehow, despite the flames all around, I just didn't get the feeling there was any risk involved. The fire stayed put. They seemed pretty invulnerable to smoke inhalation. There was a part where Casey had to pull Kelly out of the hole he'd made. The table Kelly stood on to get the height he needed collapsed, and Casey was holding on to him—but he was sliding across the floor! Except Kelly was hovering three feet above the ground. And there was no impending danger (other than, you know, the fire). And the Rescue Team was probably coming back. We didn't seem to have anything to worry about.

So what are we watching for? Storylines between pretty people who we hope to develop a kinship for? The opportunity to cringe as the show begs for our love? There was a scene at the end, when the whole crew came down in solidarity for Herrmann and they sat together in the waiting room. The score and the images demanded that we try to understand the brotherhood between these people. But I didn't. And I had a hard time getting myself to really care.

But there are probably a lot of opportunities for people to take their shirts off. So there's that.



QUESTIONS


– How long until Shay is making out with a woman every week for ratings?

– Is the gender imbalance on this show (where there are no women on the Truck Squad) disconcerting for anyone?

– Aren't you so glad they told you about that alarm thing early so we got that payoff when Casey fell through the floor?

– What would keep you watching this show?

Chicago Fire "Pilot" Photos

Comments (52)
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this is one of the best new tv shows on tv. and my two daughters agree. dvr them to watch when nothing else is on. I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS REVIEW. hope it keeps running.
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I realize my humble opinion isn't worth diddly-squat to the networks but I am a HUGE fan of this show already. Lesbians, pretty,shirtless people, fire trucks...........what's not to like? I will be super pissed off if it gets cancelled! Cummon now, in a world filled with honey boo-boo's and kim kardashians, this is a welcomed relief. Rage on Chicago Fire!!!!
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Gabriela is probably still going to court. Just because the child was okay doesn't mean anything. I came into the show expecting to hate it, and actually enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm not saying it's the best thing I've ever seen, but it's not bad. Certainly better than Beauty and the Beast and Partners.
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-My thoughts exactly. There are only two chicks and then they established that one is a lesbian. It made me cringe. Because I had the sneaking suspicion that when it comes down to it they'll monopolize on that as a desperate move to conjure up some more ratings. I hate the exploitive nature of that. Also, I hate when shows can't just let characters be. I like it when it's an afterthought...like establish the character as a great character and than in passing we learn that's she's a lesbian. The way the did it on this show made her "The Lesbian". I couldn't even remember her name. She should be a character who happens to be a lesbian, not a lesbian character. And none of that probably makes any sense so I'll move onto the next grievance...

-Yes. It is disconcerting. It being a sausage fest didn't bother me until I seen what the two women were doing. One of them couldn't be on the truck squad? wth?! Between them being partners an EMT's rather than running in with the Big Boys, and them being dissed by arrogant Doctor's with God complexes for not being doctors it had me thinking of the female nurses during WW I and II. They can be by the action just not in it. It wasn't the lack of women that was disconcerting, it was their job that thoroughly ticked me off.

- Yeahhh, no, not really.

-I'm ashamed to say it but the pretty people. Okay, but really it's great seeing Taylor in something else. I do like Jesse Spencer (even though he must work on his American accent). I like seeing Monica Raymund in something new. As usual, I'll go with the potential. The show has the potential to be quite interesting. I mean I didn't hate it. I did enjoy it well enough, and I appreciate being able to see something other than cop/doctor/lawyer shows, even though I enjoy those too. It wasn't too bad, it just needs to find its footing. For those who enjoy the other Dick Wolf productions it'll do just fine. I'll keep watching it.
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Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney are so enough for me to keep watching the show.
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I actually enjoyed the show quite a bit. I didn't feel like the action was lacking in any way and I feel like I can connect with the characters, even if it takes a couple episodes since there are quite a few of them. Besides, it looks like whatever is going on with Kelly and his shoulder/wrist looks a LOT like what's going on with mine, so I wanna find out what his problem is! LOL
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DON'T AGREE WITH THE REVIEW. My wife and I and my son loved the show and hope to see a lot more. Hate Bias Critics. A lot of people who review never give new show's a chance.
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After reading all the comments i actually feel bad that i liked the show. I loved the opening, i was expecting some sappy ass drama but they murked that bitch in the first 5 minutes. I guess it helps i watched this at 2 in the morning and didnt expect anything from it, but ill keep watching, for network tv its pretty good.
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Same here. It was a two am viewing and I didn't hate it.
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First, NO company in the entire city is as busy as this company was. Maybe 40 years ago but not now. People like to think of the big city as a place where there are major fires every day. These days, Chicago gets 1-5 fires a day MAX. More like 1 or 2 a day for the whole city and there are many days when there isn't one at all. For the comment of women being on the squad, there are no women on any of the "real" squads that I know of. Chicago has 3 squad companies who go to all fires in their district as well as special rescue and other unique calls. It takes more training to be part of a squad company and again, there are only 3 for the entire city (4 if you count Squad 7). And one last thing, there is no real Squad 3 any more. 1, 2, 5 and 7 but no 3.
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"And one last thing, there is no real Squad 3 any more. 1, 2, 5 and 7 but no 3."



Wow, it's almost as if this show is a work of fiction instead of a documentary. Well, jeez, let's just cancel it then.
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better than I thought, its kinda like Third watch which lasted 6 season, will take a few episodes to get learn all the characters
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I thought it was an awesome show and can't wait until next week. I tried to watch rescue me and couldn't get into it.
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It was like Rescue Me minus the goodness
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or denis leary
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Well, it wasn't great or a show I'll always remember, but for now this was some nice entertainment for an hour with nothing to do. Maybe this will be my guilty-pleasure-show of this season.
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Chicago Fire's ratings: 1.9 key demo. For NBC, that seems almost good enough to give it a full order these days. I didn't bother watching, just keeping an eye on it because it looked like a quick cancel so I put it on my dead pool.
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I didn't pick this show for my Dead Pool simply because I wanted it to be good. And all that hotness! (See what I did there). Hopefully it'll stay on for the whole season at least (although perhaps doubtful).
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I thought the episode was pretty good for a pilot. I mean, there *were* a lot cast members that needed to be introduced, so of course it felt like it was a spread a bit thin. I imagine it will get better after by the third episode.



As for the gender imbalance... were you expecting like 50/50 or something? I mean, we can ask kainalu to confirm, but I'm pretty sure the majority of firefighters are men, so the gender distribution seems pretty accurate.
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excellent points. i think it will get better. dick wolf normally creates good tv, long running tv. with the exception of 1 i think. worth the 4 episode test at least.
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Not better than Revolution and it got picked up for a full season.

Not better than NCIS LA and it's still on.

Certainly not better than NCIS (can you find a show less realistic than that ?) and this show is still on after how many decades ?

Not better than Terra Nova ; some things actually happened in this show where nothing at all happened in Terra Nova... And it lasted for a very long season.

It's a bad show, I agree. It's a bad show among many bad shows that are still on. I hope it goes on ; for now, it's one of the bad shows that doesn't bore me...
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Probably won't watch this again. It was hard just trying to watch this entire episode.
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This has the potential to be a good show with multiple characters, story lines, and action. BUT, in this episode, all the characters, story lines, and action seemed to be poorly set up, explained, and no finish or closure.

My advice to the writers is don't try to write too many plots in an episode. Then write complete plots and characters with more "meat:. (Though the male beef was greatly appreciated!)

Hope the writing improves.
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Okay, yes, it was bad, the worst being the lack of tension during those should be harrowing scenes. I hated the teaser and would have liked it better just mentioned or in flashback at a later point, but instead someone died and we didn't get a real chance to know this person and worse was not getting a stronger sense of how these people were with each other before the incident - we need to know what they lost! Of course there was the three different shades of Lauren German's hair to at least entertain me, I decided to guess which color (red, brown or blonde) she'd choose for each different scene. And after all of that, I'm going to give it one more shot. I think the show could have potential, but it needs some radical change and a much better director. I'm hoping it will get that change. If it can't please me next week though, let it burn (I know, bad pun).
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I watched the pilot last week, it was supposed to be the second episode this week, what the hell happened?!



Also, I don't see this show lasting all that long!
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BAD, SUCKS, AND WASTE OF TIME!
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It was an awesome episode. I will definitely watch CF!
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Gonna have to agree with the USA Today review: "Chicago Fire is to Rescue Me what the Osmonds were to the Jackson 5."
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I don't know what that means.
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Exact same idea, minus everything that makes it interesting.
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Staff
There's no real Tommy Gavin in Chicago Fire (much like the Osmonds never had a Michael). Casey is almost certainly supposed to be the lead of this cast but he lacks the nuance and character Gavin always has in the center of Rescue Me. That's not to say Casey can't break out and become interesting but it might not be a fair comparison either. Chicago Fire seems to be chasing much more broad ideal while Rescue Me is more in the vein of Breaking Bad/Mad Men: dark, character-driven dramas.



I guess what I'm saying is that Chicago Fire has more in common with something like Grey's Anatomy than Rescue Me.
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Not exactly building confidence with that comparison..
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totally agree. tommy gavin was a once in a lifetime character.
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I have to agree with your review, I wanted to like the show but it was lacking on all fronts.

The firefighters and paramedics were unprofessional, when 'the one who died' just broke the window and stormed inside the building I was shaking my head in disbelief. And that was just the beginning.The 'I pierced her heart with a needle' incident was just that, no lessons learned, everything will be okay. None of the characters were presented in an interesting or even likeable manner. I do hope the show improves.
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Sorry, loved it. I am probably the only one
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I'm from Chicago & the only thing I liked about this show is they used actual Chgo fire trucks & filmed at active firehouses
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Will never hold a flame to Rescue Me. See what I did there? LOL ( . .)

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I am a Captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department with 32 years on the job. I have to say that am very disappointed with the new Chicago Fire TV show. NEVER in my 32 years on the job have I seen a company leader or any firefighter just passively watch one of his men get caught in a flash over and just put his head down and instantly give up, not even calling for a line and doing everything in his power to get his man out of there!!! NOT REAL! if there is a company officer like that as shown at the start of this Premiere TV show, there wouldn't be a firefighter on the job that would work and risk his life for an officer as such.

They need technical advisers that truly can tell them how a professional Fire Dept. does things. I am from Chicago with family that were CFD and the representation that the cast is being allowed to do in this show does not do this fine dept. any justice.

I know that the show is going after young viewers but on any professional fire dept. they make us shave at every shift. So why do the main characters both Lieutenants of their respective companies not have to be clean shaven? Come on!!

Also, It would be extremely rare to see a 30-something Captain/Lieutenant of a big city fire department's Rescue company? Rescue companies are the best of the best and the only ones recruited onto the rescue companies are those that have spent years on busy truck and engine companies within the city. Thus making a 30-something leader of Chicago's Rescue 3 hard to believe.

Another miss on the technical advisers that this show is using is, With all of the sexual harassment policies that we as fire fighters have to go through with female & male firefighters working together, there is no way you would have a female in the locker room and shower area along with male firefighters walking around in just their towels.. Wrong Wrong!!

When the proud and honorable profession of firefighting needs to be portrayed in a REAL and positive way we get this show which feels as though the producers are just looking to make a soap opera of its characters instead of an exciting look at the real life and death things most firefighters have to deal with each day they go to work.

Should you need a real fire fighter with decades of experience to get things right for this show, please contact me.
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I'm with you Cap'n. Been in the service for 21 years and found little reality in this whatsoever. I realize Hollywood has to get their dirty little fingers in the drama of it all, but the demographic that would watch this show (firefighters/EMT's) should be very disappointed.



The advisers might have their hands tied because some over dramatic producer wants it to be more of a night time soap than a true rescue show and if that's the case, they should walk off the job now.



Remember the Emergency show? Sure, it had some drama here and there and the rescue stuff was a bit cheesy, but at least that seemed to have more tense moments than this did.
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excellent response dude. like you said there probably going for a younger audience, but still get the basics right. Just remember though it was just the pilot, and the promo that was shown afterwards looks like it does have a bit of potential. Whats your opinion of Rescue me? An amazing show in my opinion with some great fire fighting scenes.
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excellent response dude. like you said there probably going for a younger audience, but still get the basics right. Just remember though it was just the pilot, and the promo that was shown afterwards looks like it does have a bit of potential. Whats your opinion of Rescue me? An amazing show in my opinion with some great fire fighting scenes.
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Staff
I love this response so much. I hope you keep commenting as these reviews come out. When House MD was still on, there was a guy who used to write how accurate the medical part of the show was (http://www.politedissent.com/house_pd.html). I'd love to keep seeing your comments on the authenticity of the show.
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it must be extremely difficult for you to enjoy television shows.
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Maybe it's extremely difficult for him to enjoy BAD shows?
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Or maybe it's extremely difficult for him to enjoy fire- and rescue-based shows. Lots of people, myself included, have a hard time enjoying shows, fictitious or otherwise, that deal directly with our professions. And when we do watch them, we tend to nitpick. I, for example, am a chef, and the only show I've ever seen that accurately depicts the foodservice industry was Kitchen Confidential, which was cancelled after 4 episodes.
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Most probably. It's just that that other guy was being annoying and bitchy for no good reason and didn't really deserve an argued explanation why someone might not enjoy something that fails to depict well a subject he is way too familiar with.
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I have to say...i was really dissapointed with this episode....i was hoping for showing lives of real heros ....instead you have drug use...more useless drama...and really fake firefighting.....no masks inside of a fire and they dont even cough from breathing smoke...as super_hyly says....BAD
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One word to describe this show

............BAD.......BAD..........BAD............BAD..........BAD......BAD..............BAD.........BAD!!!!!
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I can't tell you how much your review pleases me. This is on my Dead Pool list. :)
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I will never watch it, but I hope it does OK since it's not on mine.
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Did they even bother having a consultant that knew anything or is this just a fantasy of what this is like? I only say this because it just felt wrong and off way too many times with how they handled these situations for me... I didn't even need my friend to give me all the insider MST3K jibes at so much of it. But then... maybe Chicago is just more unprofessional?
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According to the NY Times write up, there are two onset consults from the real Chicago Fire Department.
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