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Nobody loves a formula more than Dick Wolf, and no network loves a Dick Wolf formula (that actually draws viewers) more than NBC. So it should come as no surprise that Wolf and NBC, who made good with Chicago Fire, are back with Chicago P.D.
The only slightly unexpected twist is that the detective at the center of Chicago P.D. is Sgt. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe), who will be familiar to Chicago Fire viewers as an angry, corrupt cop who was sent to prison. Well, guess what? He got sprung somehow (perhaps this all will be explained later) and now runs the intelligence unit of the police department.
He’s still dirty — or, if you prefer, both a good cop and bad cop because we also get to see him be effective and sympathetic — and under his command, it sure looks like the intelligence unit will be cutting corners.
Fans of Shawn Ryan‘s legendary cop show The Shield will see hints of Vic Mackey in Hank Voight, although this series obviously won’t go that dark (even though NBC has no problem showing not one but two severed heads next to their bodies, plus photos of the crime scenes later).
While the odds are that Chicago P.D. will be as straight-up predictable as most network cop shows (numerous elements in the pilot could be seen coming like a neon truck rambling down a highway), this series should be applauded for putting a shady detective at the center of the show, since broadcast has a bad track record at creating shows that seem cable-ready rough-and-real.
The problem with a show like Chicago P.D. is, if it truly does want to be cable-like, it has to have more going for it in the writing department and present less cookie-cutter, seen-them-before characters.
That said, even though Michael Chiklis can’t be duplicated — nor can the Vic Mackey character be — don’t rule out Beghe, as he’s a very magnetic presence here. Along with another familiar face in Jon Seda, who plays Det. Antonio Dawson, and Elias Koteas, as Det. Alvin Olinksy, there’s enough hardened acting chops to make Chicago P.D. a watchable distraction in the Dick Wolf mode.
Will it end up being something consistently good? It probably depends on your definition of good. There are a lot of mechanical elements to the rest of the show, where good-looking detectives mingle with good-looking street cops and the banter veers between tough, witty and tender as the strings are manipulated with familiar precision.
TNT’s Southland was the last great cop show, but that doesn’t mean something that passes as comfort food — much like Chicago Fire does — can’t be embraced for what it is.
And, given the Wolf brand, you know exactly what Chicago P.D. is.
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