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1st episodes don’t burn all that brightly

‘CHICAGO FIRE’ ★★

9 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays on WMAQ-Channel 5

If the sound of sirens really gets you going, “Chicago Fire” is a decent way to pass the time watching attractive people rescue folks out of infernos, overturned cars and collapsed construction sites.

Stripped of its action sequences, which aren’t always compelling, there’s little that could be called even remotely explosive about this NBC drama.

The pilot is made up mostly of all-too-predictable tropes: the on-the-job mistake that leads to a crisis of confidence followed swiftly by redemption, and the engaged couple with cold feet.

The next two episodes show modest improvement, but the characters remain stuck in a one-dimensional rut. There’s the gullible, easy-to-take-advantage-of rookie. The good guy who’s as capable as he is kind, with integrity to spare. A gorgeous lesbian paramedic, who must be very well paid to live in that sweet $600,000 loft.

Some of the acting is surprisingly uneven (Jesse Spencer being a notable exception). Same goes for the various plots that expect the audience to be deeply vested in scenarios that get glossed over at best. It’s as if the writers assume we’ll automatically feel for these characters without doing the leg work to get us there.

I don’t blame a show about firefighters for going for it when it comes to big emotions — something it does successfully in the second episode with Taylor Kinney’s poignant rescue attempt. But too often the story feels heavy-handed where it shouldn’t, as with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s cameo in the pilot. He shows up at a fire, and the scene is treated with a reverence better suited to the president.

Lori Rackl



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