The Chicago Code (FOX – Monday, 9:00 p.m)

THE CHICAGO CODE, the compelling new police drama from critically acclaimed creator Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), follows the Windy City’s most powerful and respected cops as they navigate the city’s underbelly to fight crime and expose corruption within Chicago’s notorious political machine.

Set and shot on location in Chicago, THE CHICAGO CODE is a fast-paced series centered on JAREK WYSOCKI (Jason Clarke), a local legend and a larger-than-life veteran of the Chicago Police Department who wields considerable power thanks to his relationship with TERESA COLVIN (Jennifer Beals), his ex-partner and the city’s first female superintendent, now in charge of a 10,000-member police force. While Teresa diplomatically governs amidst the complicated landscape of Chicago politics, Jarek works the streets on a crusade to clean up corruption and crime and avenge his brother’s murder. Along the way, they will stop at nothing to bring down their powerful adversaries, including ALDERMAN RONIN GIBBONS (Delroy Lindo), a building-magnate-turned-politician who has ruled his ward with a velvet glove for over two decades.

Joining Jarek on the street is CALEB EVERS (Matt Lauria), an eager young detective trying desperately to prove himself. Also in Jarek’s charge is his niece, VONDA WYSOCKI (Devin Kelley), a rookie beat cop whose father – Jarek’s brother – was killed in the line of duty when she was young. Jarek keeps close tabs on her and is less than thrilled with the risk-taking ways of her cocky hotshot partner, ISAAC JOINER (Todd Williams). Also in the mix is low-life LIAM HENNESSEY (Billy Lush), an Irish thug who blends in with the gritty world of local crime. – FOX

8 out of 10

So here we are asking ourselves again, why, oh why, do the best scripted dramas always wind up on FOX?  They are only going to canceled when FOX inevitably pisses their pants after a couple of episodes.  The Chicago Code is eerily similar to Lone Star in that it’s a serialized, well-written, well-casted and well-acted dramatic series… that probably won’t last a single season because FOX has no patience for shows like this.  For the sake of this review, though, let’s pretend that FOX won’t cancel it before the end of the first season.

The Chicago Code is everything it claims to be and perhaps a bit more.  Jason Clarke (Brotherhood) is brilliantly cast as the down-to-earth, old-school detective who is used to thinking unconventionally and using unorthodox methods in order to effectively do his job.  Beals, is his former partner and newly appointed Police Superintendant who has recruited him to help her to clean up the corruption in Chicago.  If you think you’ve seen this before, you have.  This is almost the exact same scenario as in Brian De Palma’s 1987 classic The Untouchables when Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) recruits Jim Malone (Sean Connery) to help him take down the corrupt politicians, corrupt police department and Al Capone.

Watch this scene to understand The Chicago Code:

… and THAT’S The Chicago Code.  There is no sugar-coating it.  This is a modern-day telling of a classic story of crime and corruption and Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit) is not even being subtle with his homage to The Untouchables.  Good for him because he’s a brilliant writer and he’s smart enough to know that if you are going to use someone else’s source material for inspiration, use only the good stuff.  What made HBO’s Deadwood so good was the fact that it was Shakespeare set in the Old West.  It’s no different with any good drama and The Chicago Code excels in exploiting its predecessor.

Ryan’s no slouch, either, when it comes to stories about corruption having been the creator of F/X’s hit The Shield which lasted for six seasons which revolved around a group of corrupt detectives in the L.A.P.D.  And like The Shield, The Chicago Code does something that we absolutely love and we praised it before in our review of A & E’s The Glades; it uses the city itself as not just a backdrop, but as a living, breathing character.  One gets the feeling that they know Chicago as well as the residents do by watching The Chicago Code and that is a key factor that makes the show compelling and worth investing in for audiences.  It’s also beautifully shot and is a visual pleasure to enjoy in high-definition. Unfortunately, though, as previously noted, we don’t think the show has much of a chance at survival.

To be fair to FOX, and as much as we rip on them, there is a big problem with The Chicago Code that has nothing to do with bad management at FOX: it’s a serial.  Serialized television has no place in major network schedules any more.  It just doesn’t play with this generation of viewers who are inundated with 300 plus channels of cable television, the Internet, and reality television.  This generation of television viewers expects everything to be immediate with their entertainment and they simply have no patience for a story that doesn’t effectively conclude itself at the end of the hour.  This isn’t a criticism, this is just a fact and if you’re wondering when the end of serialized drama on network television officially occurred, it was May 24, 2010, which is the day of the series finale of 24 and the day after the series finale of Lost.  It’s getting more and more difficult to put any effort in writing reviews for serialized drama on network television because we are kind of at the “what’s the point?” stage as we expect every serialized drama on network television to be canceled no later than the end of its first season.

Now, that being said, we believe that FOX has made the same mistake with this show that they did with Lone Star and that is airing it on FOX instead of F/X.  F/X has been consistently able to support to serialized dramas and The Chicago Code would be a perfect fit there.

Of course, we certainly hope that we are dead-wrong about the lifespan of The Chicago Code on FOX but the numbers were only OK for the premiere (2.4 rating for 18-49) and the tendency for serialized shows is to lose audience after the premiere, not pick them up.  So we’ll keep our fingers crossed but we aren’t very optimistic about any long-term success for this show.

Watch full episodes of The Chicago Code, here.

17 comments on “The Chicago Code (FOX – Monday, 9:00 p.m)

    • You’re absolutely correct. The show sucks because of a production mistake in one scene. No one should ever watch it again. :p

      That’s what we call a goof. They happen all the time. We enjoy nitpicking for fun as much as the next guy but we don’t let tit take away from the enjoyment of the series unless it’s ridiculously glaring (this wasn’t. We wouldn’t have noticed it without you mentioning it) and serves to take away from the believability of the show. If you do some research you’ll find inconsistencies in every show on television, often in the same scene that was shot in multiple takes from different angles. In this case, considering the difference in lighting between the two scenes and the fact that the memorial scene was shot on an overcast day, I think it’s safe to say that the scenes were shot on two different days and the wardrobe people just made a mistake.

      What’s surprising is that the wardrobe inconsistency was what stood out to you in that scene. It was one of the most pivotal character development scenes of the series so far!

      That being said, despite the wardrobe malfunction, what do you think of The Chicago Code thus far?

      Thanks for reading!

  1. Pingback: Chicago Code | Trends Pics

    • Hey, Ranter, thanks for reading our review! In all fairness, when we reviewed TCC, we had only seen the pilot and we were basing the rating off of that. That’s part of the problem with television reviews is that you only get a smattering of episodes to go on if you’re lucky and that’s if you’re a professional and the networks give you advance copies and even with that, there’s no guarantee that those few episodes tell the whole story about whether a show is as good as it seemed in the pilot (See our review of Hawaii Five-O for proof of that. We gave that show a flippin’ 8 when in retrospect it’s a 6 on its best day.) Being the amateur nobodies we are, all we have to go on when we do a review is the pilot and maybe the second episode if we do the review a week late which we hate doing. Every now and then we scam bootlegs and advanced reviews but that’s few and far between.

      Plotwise, we have enjoyed the first three episodes so far (the rest are on the DVR) and the twists remind us of a toned-down-for-network-television version of The Shield. Maybe that is part of the problem. It’s quite possible that Shawn Ryan is trying to adapt a show for network television that is too gritty to be adapted without seeming cartoonish. We’ll have to get back to you on that when we see the rest of the episodes for this season. Regardless, we will be doing a post-season wrap an re-evaluation of all new shows for this season in June because most of them need it.

      As far as the issues with TCC about the embarrassing Chicago references that they have to plug into the show that make you cringe, I have the exact same problem with shows set in Las Vegas. Instead of having actual consultants who live and work in this town to provide some of the references these producers come up with, on their own apparently by taking man-on-the-street polls or reading the front page of the newspaper, A.) clichés or B.) references to things that they think everyone in Las Vegas talks about all the time. And they never get the geography right. For Pete’s sake, pull up Mapquest!

  2. Yea I can believe that. Its probably because I live here that their choices in references seem so off the wall! From what I can tell non-residents really enjoy the show. If it makes it to a 2nd season, I’d be interested to see where it goes. But I’ll still watch the rest of this season’s episodes and follow it up with a post-season rant, and don’t forget to send a link my way for your next Chicago Code article!

  3. We homers are definitely biased, no doubt. I won’t even watch CSI. 🙂

    I’m going to subscribe to your blog and add you to the blog roll and I’ll be sure to let you know when we do a follow-up on TCC.

  4. thanks, likewise here! Looking forward to more of your posts! And btw I’d love to see what you have to say about AMC’s The Walking Dead… just started watching it, and not too into the zombie stuff, but gotta say, not too bad.

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  6. Took this off my Tivo. After the “liberal bomber” episode I just gave up. It was bad enough they were bashing Unions in prior episodes. They should probably keep their political rants to Fox News instead of ruining shows like this with it.

    • HA! That’s hilarious! You’re bothered by a couple of random plot devices that happen to center on the left for dramatic purposes to the point where you stopped watching??? Would a right-wing bomber have been more acceptable, to you? Did you express the same outrage at shows like Outlaw, the entire Law & Order franchise, David E. Kelley shows like Boston Legal and Harry’s Law that serve as nothing but political soapboxes for the anti-conservative, left-wing agenda? That’s OK, right?

      Look, I don’t like when any scripted show attempts to advance a political agenda, regardless of the bent, but a couple of references here and there are hardly anything to be concerned about. Politics is always part of life but some shows act as if that means partisan agendas are as well and that’s the only purpose for their series. TCC is not guilty of this. Not for nothing, but most of the villains (and heroes) on this show have been defined as Democrats or having close ties to the Democrats and their particular brand of the liberal agenda . This has nothing to do with an anti-liberal perspective, on the contrary, it’s simply a reflection of the reality of Chicago (and every other urban area in the country)… it’s run by Democrats. Are Republicans even allowed to run for office in Chicago? What next, was The Wire racist because all of the criminals on the show were black even though the show took place in a black neighborhood of inner-city Baltimore? I mean you really need to have thicker skin than that.

      Also, you’re misunderstanding the nature of the relationship in media between subsidiaries of parent companies when correlating FOX Broadcasting, 20th Century Fox Television Productions and FOX News. They have ZERO affiliation with each other when it comes to content of programming, whether you choose to believe that or not and in fact are often quite adversarial with each other. Using FOX and 20th Century FOX as an example, I refer you to Bones, one of FOX’s biggest hits that still hasn’t been picked up by FOX because they haven’t come to terms with 20th Century Fox Television over money. The same thing happened in 2009 as well, and this piece in Variety from then (a day before the FOX Up-Front Advertising Event) explains the details.

      Furthermore, shows on FOX regularly attack the FOX News and right leaning ideology. I refer you to this from The Simpsons earlier this season:

      Not to mention that Family Guy regularly bashes the right and FOX News in particular, even doing an entire episode dedicated to bashing FOX News:

      These are just a couple of examples. FOX and 20th Century FOX Television are replete with them.

      But, of course, that’s completely acceptable because, unlike criticism of the left, any criticism of the right is always true and dare I say it… fair and balanced.

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  8. Pingback: The Chicago Code | Trends Pics

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  10. Unbelievable! This is a great show. If you look at the ratings, look at the reviews, they all say the same thing, “this is a great show”. Yes, it may not be the most groundbreaking, but the characters are so real, the storylines are rich and engaging. Last night’s episode, literally had me on the edge of my seat, sweating and heart racing, hoping that Liam survives his gunshot wound. I yelled at my television set, “Punch him, Jarek! Punch HIM!!!” when Alderman Gibbons tried to blackmail him with the identity of his brother’s killer. No cop show, no crime triller drama has been as striking or strong as Chicago Code in a long time! It is a refreshing change of pace, to see a well handled show worthy of attention, as opposed to the now three CSI’s, airing at the same time, two NCIS’s etc. FOX has a hidden gem in its line-up, its a shame to end it, before it has a chance to be more than great. FOX has given chances to less worthy shows, with lesser fan bases, lackluster story lines and two-dimensional characters, (i.e. Raising Hope, Traffic Light, etc.) With the inevitable cancelation of House M.D. after its eigth season, a show like Chicago Code would definatly help lift FOX’s reputation for being a B-list, second rate, cable channel to being a competitor, worthy of a reputation reserved for CBS or NBC.

    • Hey, Hailey, thanks for reading! I loved TCC as well but I get why it didn’t work. It’s a great a story but the problem is that this generation of audiences jut do not have the attention span for complex serial dramas. These type of show are of course my favorite types of shows, but unfortunately you and I are currently in the minority. I wiish this had been shopped to F/X but I think the problem with that is that it would have been too expensive of a show to put on F/X and Shawn Ryan has graduated from Basic Cable to the major networks. Not suggesting that there’s anything second tier about cable networks but there is certainly is more prestige and a bigger paycheck on major network than there is on cable. ‘Tis a shame, but I’m not particularly surprised.

      Quick Programming update: Traffic Light has been cancelled. Here’s a piece we did last week covering all of the late season cancellations. Also we’ve got FOX’s whole schedule up for 2011 -2012 here and we even did a preview assessment of the new shows with trailers here. Fun stuff. We’re particularly excited about the J.J. Abrams thriller Alcatraz.

      I couldn’t agree with you more about the CSI franchise. They are mindless procedurals and for folks like us, who like good serialized dramas that don’t wrap up in an hour, they aren’t even worthy of our attention. However, I do like NCIS and NCIS: LA. The characters in NCIS jsut seem to work and they do have some very good story arcs that don’t stop after one episode. I hated NCIS: LA after watching it for three episodes during its first season but now I love it.

      Thanks again for reading! We’d love to have you subscribe and join us on Facebook.

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