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The Chicago Code Finally Debuts Tonight After Seeming To Have Already Been On For Three Seasons

"Chicago!" writes Hank Stuever in the Washington Post. "What's not to love? Great food, impressive architecture, scads of culture, sports and those underground comedy troupes where you might see the next Amy Poehler. Granted, the winters kind of stink, but man!

"Then there's the Chicago of fictional television dramas, as seen over the years: That place is a freakin' nightmare! Dirty, noisy, dangerous - stay away! Corrupt to the bone, from city hall to Mafia dens. Murderous, too. Helicopters crashing in front of emergency rooms; people pushing one another off El platforms (splat!); miles and miles of housing projects filled with the criminal element. My God, the sirens alone. You'd think Mrs. O'Leary's barn was on fire 12 times a day.

The Chicago Code, Fox's immediately engaging new Monday-night drama from The Shield creator Shawn Ryan, prefers Chicago both ways. Fleeting moments of true Windy City pride (Chicago hot dogs, Chicago pizza, Chicago accents and newly assigned partners bonding spitefully over the Sox-Cubs divide) are woven into a story that relies on a significant part of Chicago turning up dead.

"Dead informants, dead officers, dead thugs, dead joggers. The Chicago Code's first order of business is to use up the national supply of yellow tape."


"Although I'm sure Chicagoans will easily pick out mistakes, let us give thanks for a show shot entirely on location in a location not located in Canada, eh? Here, Chicago really is Chicago," Stuever adds.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner. Or two.

One local writer - I couldn't find the link - complained that the show refers to the mob instead of the Outfit, as it is known (sort of) here in Chicago.

Um, this show isn't just being broadcast within our city limits. National audiences would only be confused by references to an organization called the Outfit.

(I've lived here for 19 years and I've done my share of reporting and research on organized crime here and the only people here who use the term "Outfit" instead of "mob" are journalism and authorial showoffs.)

(Likewise, another complaint was the show's practice of referring to "the police" instead of "police"; apparently the word "the" isn't used here.)

Steve Warmbir of the Sun-Times is also upset about the way the mob here is described in the show - as Irish.

Well, I find it refreshing. Do we really need another rehearsal of Italian stereotypes?

His next complaint makes even less sense.

"The next problem is the series' premise. It tells the story of the city's first female police superintendent and a legendary homicide detective who team up to investigate the city's most powerful alderman - arguably, the man with the most clout in Chicago," Warmbir writes. "Helping them is an undercover officer who has infiltrated the city's Irish mob.

"Of course, a superintendent and a detective who decided to shake out the dirty underwear of one of the city's most ruthless politicians would not remain a superintendent or a detective for long.

"They'd soon be looking for work in the private sector, perhaps as security consultants or suburban police chiefs.

"That's the Chicago Way.

"And that's why the feds historically have undertaken such investigations, even of lowly aldermen, much less powerhouses."

But that's exactly the point - the premise is that, for the first time, a police chief is finally going to take on political corruption, which, after all, often involves illegal activities. That's what makes it a show.


Not every local critic is feeling their Second Cityness.

"Chicago does not have a CSI," writes Steve Johnson for the Tribune. "It has never been granted its own Law & Order, either, despite the way those two series seem to spin off in a TV version of perpetual regeneration.

"But there's no reason to feel slighted. The wait for a contemporary police series the city could call its own has been worth it.

"Instead of trickle-down forensics or sixth-edition cops-and-lawyers, The Chicago Code (8 p.m. Monday, WFLD-Ch. 32) finds a unique and compelling path through the oft-trodden landscape of police officers and the people who give them something to do all day."

As for the details of our local culture and geography, Johnson writes:

"Locals will enjoy the guessing game it engenders - is that bank exterior the Wrigley Building? - but everybody will feel the depth of place: the frantic search through an actual 'L' station and car; the neighborhoods where brick two-flats mix with aluminum-sided cottages and the front doors are half a floor above street level; the industrial storefronts in the Lake Street corridor.

"Are there more scenes shot amid elevated train track supports than random chance would predict? Oh, yes. But this is no ER, blowing into town a couple of times a year so characters could have dramatic outdoor conversations along Wabash, beneath the 'L.' You can feel the city in this program, from scruffy vacant lots to swanky dinner spots."


One thing's for sure: The Chicago Code is no My Boys. What we don't know yet is if it will rise to the level of The Shield. We can only hope - regardless of what trivialities the show gets wrong.


Comments welcome.


* Trailer: The Chicago Code

* Making TV: The Chicago Code On Location

* Breaking The Chicago Code


Posted on February 7, 2011

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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