Given how many cop shows populate the primetime landscape (most of them produced or inspired by Dick Wolf), it's a little surprising that the broadcast networks have shied away from dramas centered around firefighters for this long.
Enter NBC's "Chicago Fire," yet another Dick Wolf production (created by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas), which is centered around a Chicago firehouse and the firefighters and paramedics that populate it.
Wolf and the show's stars -- including David Eigenberg, Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney and Eamonn Walker -- were on hand for the NBC portion of the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour to preview the new series, which has been earning decidedly mixed reviews ahead of its premiere.
Since there have been so few firefighting shows in recent years, reporters inevitably drew comparisons to FX's "Rescue Me," but Wolf was quick to downplay any similarities.
"No one's talking to ghosts," he promised. "'Rescue Me' [had] an internal vision, this is an internal and external vision; it’s a true ensemble as opposed to a single lead show." He also pointed out that no one would question his logic if he was doing "another cop show," so comparisons seem unnecessary. "First responders are of continuing interest to me -- they protect you when you sleep."
Wolf also emphasized the show's interest in character-driven stories, as opposed to procedural or "fire of the week" episodes, describing the show in the vein of "ER," "Law & Order" and "Hill Street Blues."
"There are very few areas that give you the opportunity to really explore character," he pointed out. "It’s a character study about people who do things that you can’t pay people to do –- you can’t pay people to run into a burning building. [You'll see] writing you haven’t seen for a while on network television. The writers room could be put in a book about screenwriting; to carry all of these characters’ stories forward for 13 episodes is a monumental task. What we’re trying to do here is a very classic, adult NBC platinum drama."
Since Wolf has become synonymous with New York crime dramas, a critic questioned why he chose to set this drama in Chicago -- for Wolf, the answer was in the question: "New York we’ve done; I’ve been on those streets continuously for the past 25 years. I wanted the opportunity to show another great city."
That being said, don't expect the show to spin off to "New York Fire" or "Los Angeles Fire" any time soon. "I just want to get this one to a back nine and settle in for a nice long run," Wolf insisted. "The first run of a show like this, you’re not thinking about the future, you’re thinking about survival."
"Chicago Fire" premieres on Wednesday, October 10 at 10 p.m. on NBC.