'Chicago Law': Biggest Burning Questions About NBC's Latest Potential Spinoff

Can the new project really coexist with veteran series 'Law & Order: SVU'?
 Elizabeth Sisson/NBC

It didn't come as a surprise to many, but Thursday's news that yet another Chicago series, Chicago Law, is officially in development at NBC still raised eyebrows. Despite the solid performances of flagship series Chicago Fire as well as spinoffs Chicago P.D. and freshman Chicago Med, as well as the speed with which the franchise has grown, there are still skeptics. Will four be too many shows in one franchise? How would Chicago Law fit in with the rest of Windy City series? And, perhaps most importantly, is there room for Chicago Law and stalwart sister series Law & Order: SVU to coexist? Here, The Hollywood Reporter takes a deep dive on the potential new series to ease those – ahem – objections.

Is There Really a Need for Four Chicago Shows?

Maybe there's not a need per se, but taking a look at the legal world is too a logical a next step in the franchise to pass up. While Chicago Fire is able to easily and frequently pass off their burn victims to the docs over at Chicago Med, it's proven more tricky to find ways to connect Chicago Fire and P.D. -- save for those hard-to-prove arson cases that seem to keep coming up – and between P.D. and Med. The most recent three-show crossover proved exactly why there's room for Chicago Law when the malpractice case against a cancer doctor went to trial. And might we point to the ever-expanding world of Marvel and DC Comics TV series? There are currently eight of the former and four of the latter with no plans of stopping in sight so it wouldn't it be nice to counterbalance the glut of superheroes with some real heroes?

Is There Room, Literally, for a Fourth Chicago Show?

If this year's TV schedule holds true for the 2016-17 season, Fire and Med already have Tuesdays covered. Considering how many crossovers have already commenced between Law & Order: SVU and Chicago P.D. on Wednesdays, it would seem silly to break them up now. And, let's be honest, NBC is likely not going to sacrifice its prime spot for launching new shows – Mondays at 10 p.m. behind The Voice – for a spinoff from an established franchise that already comes packing a built-in fan base. So how about using Chicago Law to open up a new night, say Thursday? That way, any police, fire or medical cases that need to go to trial could easily carry over from Tuesday or Wednesday to Thursday. The other distinct possibility is that NBC could borrow a page from ABC's playbook and build a whole night around three of Dick Wolf's shows, a la Shonda Rhimes' #TGIT block on Thursdays. Wolf Wednesdays has an awfully nice ring to it.

Can Chicago Law and Law & Order: SVU Coexist?

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the flagship series from which it spawned shared space on NBC's schedule for a decade. Why? Because, as the title indicates, SVU only covers special victims. In addition to the difference in location, Chicago Law could simply avoid any overlap by sidestepping the sex crimes and rape accusations that have been SVU's bread and butter for nearly two decades. SVU showrunner Warren Leight articulated the difference between the franchises best when he spoke to THR last April for an SVU-P.D. crossover. "The two police departments could not be more different in their procedures." As Leight then pointed out, Chicago P.D. might be helped by having a team of regular prosecutors to hold Intelligence accountable. "As far as I can tell, they don’t have a legal system," Leight said in April. "One department plays more loosely than the other when it comes to constitutional protections. Our guys get a little tense about that; a little more protective of the system."

How Will Chicago Law Stand Apart From Chicago P.D.?

While there is some room for cases first seen on Chicago P.D. then going to trial on Chicago Law, there's only so much direct overlap the two series could reasonably include without concerns about alienating viewers who watch one drama and not the other. However, like SVU, the Intelligence Unit of Chicago P.D. is a specialized team. "This unit is not the homicide investigation unit so it's not our guys walking up in a suit and tie with a pad and pen saying, 'Where were you on the night of the fifth?' It's Intelligence," Chicago P.D. showrunner Matt Olmstead told THRlast month. So, if Intelligence is busy tracking down major drug dealers and other highly sensitive cases, that presumably leaves a lot of the everyday murder mysteries left unsolved. Chicago Law could look to Dick Wolf's breakout hit, Law & Order, for inspiration. Many times, even after a case and suspect was handed over to Jack McCoy and the district attorney's office on Law & Order, his A.D.A. of the moment did their own digging and investigating into the matter at hand, sometimes discovering different suspects or additional crimes committed in the process. In its prime, Law & Order was not just a cop show or a legal drama – it was a well-executed mystery series with plenty of twists and turns. Chicago Law could easily follow suit – and avoid overlap – by focusing on murders and kidnappings and other less high-profile, but still intriguing cases. 

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