TV reviews: 'Chicago Fire' fizzles; violent 'Arrow' entices
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It's the last big night of the fall season for new series premieres, including ABC's strong soap "Nashville" (10 tonight, WTAE-TV), NBC's terminally bland "Chicago Fire" (10 tonight, WPXI) and The CW's competent but pedestrian "Arrow" (8 tonight, WPCW).
A review of "Nashville" ran Sunday in TV Week. Reviews of "Chicago Fire" and "Arrow" follow:
There's nothing wrong with "Chicago Fire" that a time machine trip back to 1999 couldn't cure. It's not that the show is terrible -- it's not -- but it brings nothing new to the firefighter drama format.
FX's "Rescue Me" intrigued because it had a distinctive point of view; "Chicago Fire" is a derivative ensemble drama with no point of view at all. It's the widget of TV dramas.
Dick Wolf, the veteran producer of "Law & Order," is an executive producer on "Chicago Fire," which is reminiscent of NBC's old show "Third Watch." Like "Third Watch," "Chicago Fire" follows different kinds of rescue workers, including firefighters, rescue squad members and paramedics.
The pilot episode begins with the death of a firefighter that casts a pall over Chicago Firehouse 51. Lt. Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer, "House") bumps heads with gruff Lt. Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney, "The Vampire Diaries"). Both are in pain after the loss of their co-worker; Casey is self-sabotaging his relationship with Hallie (Teri Reeves), and Severide appears to be a self-medicating addict.
Taking a page from "ER," "Chicago Fire" uses a recent fire academy grad, Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett), as the audience's entry into the story, but it's handled in a diffuse, unfocused manner. His imminent hazing is entirely predictable.
That's a problem that permeates "Chicago Fire": In all but title and character specifics, viewers have seen this show a dozen times before.
For "Smallville" viewers, The CW's "Arrow" also may feel familiar (not the early, cornier, better years of "Smallville" but its later, darker turn). However, "Arrow" hits its target as an OK comic book-inspired show.
Oliver Queen and his alter ego Green Arrow appeared in the final seasons of "Smallville." But "Arrow" is not a spinoff. Different producers are writing "Arrow," and a different actor aims his bow. Stephen Amell ("Private Practice") takes over for "Smallville" actor Justin Hartley, who's now a series regular on The CW's "Emily Owens, M.D." (got all that?).
Flashbacks introduce the story of philandering frat boy Oliver, who spent five years on a deserted island. Everyone back home in Starling City thinks he died when the boat he and his father were on sank in turbulent seas.
But the jerky Oliver was just biding his time, mellowing and drinking in Buddhist teachings. (It's not clear who imparted these lessons, but Oliver brings his sister a religious trinket from the deserted island.) Now he's a more mature, stubbly, bulked-up powerhouse who dons a green-hued disguise ("the hood guy") to exact vigilante justice.
"Arrow" is quite violent in its action-packed sequences. The pilot also offers at least one surprising twist.
Once he's home, Oliver must reconnect with family, including his mother (Susanna Thompson, "Kings"), his best friend (Colin Donnell) and his ex-girlfriend, Laurel (Katie Cassidy, "Melrose Place"), whose sister he was sleeping with at the time of the boat sinking (the sister died in the boat disaster along with Oliver's father). And Oliver, as Arrow, sets about to right wrongs perpetuated by his family and Starling City's thugs.
There's nothing particularly new about a superhero show, but "Arrow" exhibits a stylized ferocity that, in its initial hour at least, makes a positive enough impression.
First Published October 10, 2012 12:00 am