Mar 15, 2021
Chicago (Fill in the Blank), Dick Wolf's next series?
Dick Wolf is a living legend in the entertainment industry as a writer and producer, with a well deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s responsible for some of the most famous TV shows in history: Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. But for every success there are a host of, shall we say, lesser known programs. Do you remember Conviction? Law & Order: Trial by Jury (Jerry Orbach’s last appearance)? Law & Order: LA? Deadline (that’s the one where Oliver Platt plays a crime reporter)? To say Wolf has repeatedly gone back to the well regarding his most popular franchise is putting it lightly.
And since that Law & Order well has run mostly dry (seriously, who the hell is watching SVU these days?), Dick Wolf is doing it again with his “Chicago” franchise. First there was Chicago Fire…
Then came Chicago P.D.…
But wait, there’s more! There’s Chicago Med (featuring Law & Order alumnus S. Epatha Merkerson)…
…And now, this past week brought us the debut of Chicago Justice.
I will concede Wolf isn’t the only guy/network to run a franchise into the ground…
…but he seems to have turned it into an art form, having gone from exploiting the various facets of the New York justice system (at one point even creating documentary-style programming based on real cases for prime time entertainment. Classy) to figuring out how to best exploit Chicago’s public service institutions. But now Dick has gone one step further; whereas the Law & Order shows would have occasional crossovers, it seems that if you really want to get the whole “Chicago experience”, you have to watch all four shows, because characters from one show pop up in others all the time, with multiple-part story lines even crossing from one series to another. I was having dinner with my friend Dave Szmigiel this past Thursday, and mentioned how I stumbled across Chicago Justice (by the way, it is nice to see Carl Weathers getting steady work; I’ve been a fan of his since Rocky) and the two of us speculated on what other shows Dick Wolf might be so inclined to produce if called upon by the suits at NBC. What could spring from Dick’s fertile brow? Let’s speculate, shall we?
Enter the world of the Chicago Humane Society, where veterinarians and volunteers strive every day to find good homes for dogs and cats, coming to the defense of those with no voice. In the pilot, the volunteers deal with a rogue firefighter who kidnaps cats and deliberately puts them in trees so he can rescue them and play hero, while at the same time vets work with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit detectives to stop a sheep rapist known as the Good Shepherd from claiming another victim.
Expect lots of guest appearances and/or crossovers with Chicago Fire as one of the volunteers falls for a firefighter during the cat investigation, and with Chicago P.D. when cops discover an underground dog fighting ring (with one of the cop’s pets being dognapped for extra drama), and with Chicago Justice when Carl Weather’s tabby gets feline leukemia. Also, expect multiple guest appearances by Sarah McLachlan.
It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Chicago DPW follows the lives of those who keep the power flowing and water pumping. In the pilot, fierce storms flood the streets and it’s up to the brave men and women of the DPW to keep the city’s electricity on. Expect a crossover with Chicago Med as the power loss threatens the lives of patients.
Later, expect a crossover with Chicago Vet and Chicago P.D. as sewer workers lead a team down below to deal with albino alligators high off of crystal meth flushed down a drug dealer’s toilet in the midst of a raid. While the vets work to save the alligators, drug dealers try to kill them to dispose of the evidence.
The Department of Transportation isn’t glamorous, but Chicago would grind to a halt without the selfless actions of the drivers and engineers of the Windy City’s buses and subway system. In the pilot, DOT employees face their biggest fear: gridlock! And the department faces scandal when it’s discovered prostitution is rampant underground.
Expect crossovers with Chicago P.D. as cops go undercover as johns. Later, we’ll see another crossover with Chicago Vet, when in a classic Dick Wolfian “ripped from the headlines” move, packs of hyper-intelligent dogs use the subway to commute to the suburbs to commit petty crimes.
The redheaded stepchild of call center services, the men and women of Chicago 311 deal every day with such calls as dead animal pickup, city vehicle sticker violations, and cable TV complaints. In the first episode, the rookie phone operators undergo a trial by fire when they have to deal with a rash of prank “McDonald’s is out of Chicken McNuggets” calls.
Expect a crossover with Chicago Justice when the crusty veteran gets called on the carpet for not using the proper pronouns with a transgendered person on the phone and they threaten to sue the city as a result.
Chicago Secretary of State
Yeah, I don’t think even Dick Wolf could make standing in line at the DMV look interesting. Moving on.
Follow the trials and tribulations of various teaches and faculty as they try to maintain their sanity as they do their best to make it through the day without getting shot by students or sued by their parents.
Expect this one to not make it out of the developmental stage once rival producer David E. Kelly sues Wolf and NBC for a show bearing just a little too much similarity to his former series Boston Public.
Witness the intrepid experts at Chicago’s Innovation and Technology as they struggle with out of date servers, overworked networks, and intermittent wifi hotspots. Tune in every week as they strive to keep people’s computers up and running so they can bravely tweet. Listen how week after week, they wonder why they don’t enter “the private sector”.
Expect a crossover with everybody.
Yes, once Dick Wolf gets going, there’s no telling if/when it’s going to stop. And with his tendency to insist on crossovers between shows, expect fans to steadily spend more and more hours watching the Chicago-verse and less of, well, everything else.
As out there as some of these ideas might seem, I wouldn’t put it past Dick Wolf to propose at least some of them. And with shows like Powerless not being long for this world, expect the suits to play it safe and go back to the same formula (it’s mostly worked with CBS after all, with all their CSIs and NCISes). By this time next year, you might be unpleasantly surprised to see one of my ideas appearing on TV. If so, Mr. Wolf, I expect my royalty check on time.