NBC and Dick Wolf are certainly giving Chicago’s Big Shoulders a workout, adding a third by-the-numbers procedural to what’s being dubbed a “trilogy,” one loosely connected, inasmuch as what happens at “Chicago Med” can organically cross over with “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.” A strong cast is put in service of a fairly mundane drama, one with strong echoes of “ER” that’s perhaps a hair better than CBS’ “Code Black.” Clearly, the network has tapped into a durable niche – having already renewed “Med’s” brethren for next season – but its Second City shows are decidedly second tier.
The producers certainly don’t waste any time in squeezing in the obligatory cameo by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who appears right up front at a dedication for the city’s new (albeit fictional) state-of-the-art trauma center. Before that ceremony’s over, though, a train will derail, with new ER doc Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell) conveniently on board.
Rhodes finally makes it to his new job, where – with chaos all around them – he engages in the following exchange with his new boss (“Law & Order” veteran S. Epatha Merkerson), which provides a pretty good road map for the dialogue and situations that follow. “Is every day like this?” he asks. “Some days we’re busy,” she replies.
Character details drip out during the pilot, but as is customary in these shows, they emerge through the prism of the patients and those who pass through their professional orbits. In that respect, the big moral dilemma involves a surrogate mother who is badly injured in the train crash, leaving the parents of her not-yet-viable fetus to mull over her fate.
It’s possible to admire the competence of “Chicago Med’s” execution – and little moments, with Oliver Platt as the gentle chief of psychiatry – while at the same time feeling as numb as if a strong sedative were being administered. Nevertheless, it’s hard to completely fault NBC, after some ostentatious failures with more ambitious dramas, for following CBS into what amounts to the franchise business, dishing out pizza, even if the dish isn’t particularly deep.
Wolf, obviously, has experience presiding over multiple shows, given “Law & Order’s” storied history, and considering the solid ratings for its siblings, there’s no reason to bet against “Chicago Med,” which NBC is launching behind “The Voice” – the Nielsen equivalent of an adrenaline shot. That said, the tired nature of the material suggests this could be one of those TV operations that’s hard to deem a complete success even if the patient lives.