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Three series in the same successful universe

The city of Chicago becomes the main nucleus and the nexus between ‘Chicago Fire’, ‘Chicago P.D.’ and ‘Chicago Med’. The three fictions are set in that town and share settings and characters, which has led to a franchise that is issued with great success on the American network NBC and what is Dick Wolf artwork, winner of several Emmy Awards and creator, producer and screenwriter of other successes and television classics such as ‘Law and Order’ or ‘Corruption in Miami’. With the Chicago universe, Wolf once again demonstrated his gift for procedural series, showing us the day-to-day life and the experiences of the firefighters, the police and the health workers in the emergency room of a hospital.

The main achievement of this franchise is to have achieved form a universe that sustains itself perfectly and feeds itself thanks to the continuous interaction that exists between the three series. It is precisely this constant relationship that generates expectation and serves as a hook to keep the audience’s attention. For all these reasons, from FormulaTV we want analyze how the fictional universe was created in which ‘Chicago Fire’, ‘Chicago P.D.’ and ‘Chicago Med’ and that has led to one of the most successful television franchises.

Family ties as the origin of the franchise

Brothers Jay and Will Halstead with Dr. Rhodes

The first series that saw the light was ‘Chicago Fire’, released in October 2012. With the work and personal stories of the firefighters and emergency technicians of park 51 they managed to conquer the spectators. Taking advantage of the good reception of the series, little by little they were introducing new characters that appeared recurrently and that, some time later, would be part of the first spin-off, ‘Chicago P.D.’, released in January 2014. To unite both fictions they used the family ties to justify the presence of Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) at the fire station, who came to help her sister, Gabriella Dawson (Monica Raymund), when she or her colleagues needed to resort to investigation and police protection.

Once ‘Chicago P.D.’ was consolidated in its first season, they repeated the same formula featuring Will Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss), the medical brother of Detective Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) in the crime series. Before joining the Med emergency team, Will participated in several plots of ‘Chicago P.D.’, in which we got to know part of his past and discover the reason that led him to move to Chicago from New York. Your presence served to gradually introduce the new hospital and the staff who work there, until ‘Chicago Med’ was released in November 2015. In addition to this family union, there is another aspect that they have in common. In both ‘Chicago Fire’ and ‘Chicago P.D’, the pilot episode shows the death of one of the team members, a starting point with the loss of a teammate that marks the development of the season.

Crossed love relationships

Platt from ‘Chicago P.D.’ and Mouch from ‘Chicago Fire’ get married

Love is one of those themes that is always present in all television series no matter what gender they belong to. In this way, romantic relationships tend to occupy some of the most important plots and, in the case of procedural fictions, they are those that last throughout the entire batch of episodes or even last several seasons. Both in the fire station, in the police station and in the hospital we have witnessed romantic love stories that were forged as a result of so many hours of work together. Couples like Cassey and Dawson and Severide and Stella in ‘Chicago Fire’, Lindsay and Jay and Ruzek and Burgess in ‘Chicago P.D.’ o Natalie and Will and Ethan and April in ‘Chicago Med’ are some examples of love relationships that they have stolen our hearts and also made us suffer in equal parts.

Love relationships have also served as a link between the three series of the franchise. Thus, not only have we seen love triumph individually in each fiction, we have also witnessed how it broke down labor barriers to unite characters from one series with another. One of the most remembered stories is starring Mouch (Christian Stolte) from ‘Chicago Fire’ and Platt (Amy Morton) from ‘Chicago P.D.’, one of the most peculiar couples because both were slow to find the love of their life after desperately searching. They were not the only ones, before them, Dawson had a brief affair with Jay, while Severide (Terry Kinney) had a sporadic affair with Lindsey (Sophia Bush), uniting both fictions. Time after, Severide repeated strategy when meeting April (Yaya DaCosta) from ‘Chicago Med’, an old friend and love interest since adolescence. Nor can we forget Antonio and Brett (Kara Kilmer), although their love was not lasting.

Nicely spun crossovers

Image of the crossover titled « Infection »

When we talk about crossover we mean that relationship between two or more series that occurs when stories or characters are mixed. This technique began to be used in the Chicago franchise to present ‘Chicago P.D.’, the first spin-off to emerge from ‘Chicago Fire’. To make these crosses they took advantage of family ties that unite several characters from the different series, the character of Antonio Dawson being the first to make an appearance. They later introduced Voight (Jason Beghe), involved in corruption schemes in which Antonio, his sister and Lieutenant Cassey (Jesse Spencer) were also present. This same tactic to publicize another series was used with ‘Chicago Med’, its test episode being chapter 19 of the third season of ‘Chicago Fire’. However, before we got to this point we had already met Dr. Halstead and Nurse April, who were seen on ‘Chicago P.D.’ and in ‘Chicago Fire’ respectively.

Leaving aside the Antonio and Voight-related plots and sporadic appearances, the franchise’s first major continuity crossover began in episode 20 of the second season of ‘Chicago Fire’, titled « A terrible day », and concluded in chapter 12 of the first season of ‘Chicago P.D.’, titled « 8:30 pm ». In this two-hour event firefighters faced the explosion and the collapse of a hospital after an attack with several car bombs. For their part, the police officers were in charge of finding those responsible for what happened. So while in the first part we saw the whole process of collapse, of rescue and we discovered that paramedic Leslie Shay (Lauren German) had been injured and that the life of Agent Burgess’s niece (Marina Squerciati) was in danger, in the second part their plots were solved and the inspectors found the culprits.

The mechanics of this type of event is totally effective, since forces the viewer to watch the chapters of all the series to discover the end of the plots. For this reason, over the years new crossovers have been produced that have also involved ‘Chicago Med’. This kind of episodes they work almost like a movie, seamlessly connecting firefighters, policemen and medics that always come together with a common goal. Also, it should be noted that they are not the only crossovers that have been carried out. Inside the Chicago franchise also have special importance Law and order: Unit of special victims’ and ‘FBI’. As they are fictions by the same creator and producer, the crossing of stories is a perfect occasion to promote each of the series. Like all of them they take place at the same time and are productions with a similar theme, it is very easy to intertwine its plots, achieving a successful cohesion and that always arouses the interest of viewers and followers.

Molly’s as a meeting place

Mouch along with Otis and Hermann, two of the founders of Molly’s bar

Central Perk, MacLaren’s, CBC, The Max, Almost Ke No, Cheers and Reynolds Bar are some of the bars and cafes most famous television series. These scenarios work like meeting point between the protagonists, common places in many fictions and that are usually a very characteristic and representative element. In the case of the Chicago universe, it could not be missing either a site that allows firefighters, police and doctors to forget about drama and worries of their respective jobs while having a drink, enjoying and having fun with their colleagues and friends. The bar in question is known as Molly’s, a nightclub that they opened and run by some of the original characters from ‘Chicago Fire’.

Hermann (David Eigenberg) was the first to take an interest in an old bar to which they came in a fire warning and, after much insistence, managed to convince Dawson and Otis (Yuri Sardarov) to be his partners. After investing a lot of money, work and effort, they opened the new store under the name Molly’s, in honor of one of the former owners. From that moment he became the firefighters favorite bar, being used as a space for celebrations and to communicate good news. Furthermore, little by little he also transformed into the ‘Chicago P.D.’ cops entertainment venue and from the doctors and nurses of ‘Chicago Med’, where they have shared confidences and good times showing that they also have a good relationship beyond the workplace.

A very successful realization

Antonio and Jay in full police operation in ‘Chicago P.D.’

The world of television series is full of multitude of procedural series, but not all of them stand out. To differentiate itself from other fictions of the same genre, it is necessary to have elements that manage to surprise and with characters and stories that capture the gaze of viewers. The three series that make up the Chicago franchise have played their cards very well to bring together all these characteristics and build a very attractive universe. Part of its essence is the successful realization of every one of them. At a technical level, they present an editing and assembly that provides speed and dynamism, especially in the sequences with greater action. The variety of shots and their perfect combination facilitate the rhythm that this type of production requires.. Also, they don’t skimp on special effects and resources to get the spectacular nature of fires, police chases or injuries and operations.

Another strong point of the franchise is the plausibility of the cases they attend or investigate. The recreation of the fires is carried out in such a way that they appear authentic, as is the case with the different rescues carried out by the firefighters team. The same happens with the sequences in which the intelligence team appears in the scenes of the crimes, or when they arrive injured in the emergency room. To achieve that level of realism they turn to professionals from different sectors, counselors who are essential to proceed with rigor. Likewise, the actors also train and are formed in their corresponding modalities to know how to pick up a gun, how to care for a patient, how to proceed in a rescue and, ultimately, how to move exactly. In that credibility too the settings, which are largely real locations in the city of Chicago, play an important role. For example, Park 51 is actually Station 18, which is located at 1360 S. Blue Island Ave.

Likewise, the three series of the Chicago universe are characterized by the perfect union of the world of work with the staff. Without that part that concerns the problems of the protagonists’ private lives, fictions would lose their humanization of its characters, essential to promote empathy with viewers. Also, when personal and feelings interfere with work, plots take on added interest, especially because it allows the plot to go beyond the chapter stories. Also, ‘Chicago Fire’, ‘Chicago P.D.’ and ‘Chicago Med’ show strong female characters, brave, with a defined personality, intelligent and fighters. In the case of the first two fictions represent the empowerment of women by moving in lands that have long been monopolized by men. Characters like Dawson, Kidd, Lindsey or Burgess are clear examples that a woman is perfectly valid to be a firefighter or a police inspector.

‘Chicago Justice’, the great forgotten

Stars of ‘Chicago Justice’

Seeing the success achieved after the premiere of ‘Chicago P.D.’ and ‘Chicago Med’, those responsible for the franchise decided continue expanding the universe with a fourth fiction. If the stories starring firefighters, policemen and doctors had succeeded, why not repeat the same formula with a group of judges and lawyers? So that, in March 2017 ‘Chicago Justice’ was released and, for this, they used Antonio Dawson as a link, a character that had already served as a link between ‘Chicago Fire’ and ‘Chicago P.D.’ In this way, the actor Jon Seda left his post at police station 21 and in the Intelligence Unit to join the investigations of the State prosecutor’s office, thus entering controversial cases involving politics and media coverage of the city of Chicago.

In addition, in the cast of this fiction we find Philip Winchester as main character playing lawyer Peter Stone. Likewise, as happened with the other series in the franchise, ‘Chicago Justice’ was featured in episode 21 of the third season of ‘Chicago P.D.’. In that same episode, the actress Lorraine Toussaint participated as a guest star, taking up the role that she had played years ago in ‘Law and Order’, another of Dick Wolf’s flagship productions. His cover letter couldn’t have been better, and while it had all the ingredients to be an addictive legal drama, ended up passing without pain or glory. In fact, many viewers are probably unaware of its existence, something that is not surprising because was canceled after a single season due to low ratings, so it only stayed on the air for three months.

A faithful audience

With ‘Chicago Fire’ at the helm, the franchise maintains a loyal audience

For a fiction to remain on the air for so many seasons it is necessary have a loyal audience that supports each of your broadcasts, especially when it comes to large-scale productions that require a lot of investment and that are broadcast on linear television. In the case of the Chicago franchise, the three series that make up the universe have proven to have a large group of followers that not one of the chapters is lost. In fact, these can be seen in the United States immediately every Wednesday night on NBC in an event that the chain itself always promotes under the title of « One Chicago ».

Neither ‘Chicago Fire’, which has been on the air for longer and could have suffered wear and tear, has noticed some loss, rather has felt the opposite effect. At end of its eighth season, issued in April 2020 in the United States, it registered its historical maximum reaching the figure of 9,340,000 viewers. In addition, in one of the last broadcasts of its ninth season on the air, it became the leading proposal of the night above the barrier of 7.3 million viewers, far exceeding the rest of the competition spaces.

In Spain, although they are broadcast on different pay channels, they also have a consolidated audience. While ‘Chicago Med’ stands out on TNT, especially with its Monday night premiere broadcasts, ‘Chicago Fire’ stands out on AXN and ‘Chicago P.D.’ does the same in Calle 13. Police fiction gets good data in its reruns, managing to sneak some of its chapters among the most viewed broadcasts of the day on pay channels. Also, with the premiere of the eighth season from February 19 at 22:00 on Calle 13, the series will probably once again position itself as one of the most followed spaces. As we can see, the phenomenon of the franchise not only remains in American territory, it also triumphs internationally, a success that led the NBC network to renew each of the series for three more seasons, which will allow us enjoy the Chicago universe until at least 2023.