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‘Chicago Fire’ hot on hometown Nielsen charts, besting other popular series

The cast 'Chicago Fire'

The cast of "Chicago Fire"

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Updated: December 12, 2012 5:58PM

“Chicago Fire” rarely makes Nielsen’s weekly list of the most-watched primetime shows in the top 25 U.S. media markets.

Except in Chicago.

Here, in the nation’s third largest market, the Dick Wolf drama is white hot, occasionally eclipsing well-established juggernauts like the “NCIS” franchise.

Filmed entirely in the Chicago region, the series has drawn as many as half a million local viewers to its Wednesday night episodes, according to the ratings arbiter. (“Mob Doctor” also is set and shot in Chicago, but it hasn’t gained any traction here — or anywhere. Fox recently announced it won’t be ordering new episodes beyond the initial 13.)

Since “Chicago Fire” debuted in early October, the show usually gets a 12 share or better, meaning at least 12 percent of Chicago-area households with TVs turned on at 9 p.m. Wednesday are tuned into the rescue drama. Its solid performance in a market the size of Chicago likely helped the freshman series get a full-season pick up from the Peacock network.

Nielsen data for the top 25 markets during the bulk of the fall TV season gives an interesting — although imperfect —glimpse into the country’s divergent tastes in television.

I say imperfect because the lists of the most-watched primetime shows are based on same-day viewing, meaning programs that pick up a lot of extra eyeballs thanks to DVR playback days later — NBC’s “Revolution,” for example — are more popular than the weekly reports might suggest. Sporting events such as the World Series can skew results in different markets, too.

But as Chicago’s penchant for “Chicago Fire” illustrates, we’re not universal when it comes to using our remotes. Here’s a look at some regional trends:


“Pablo Escobar: El Patron del Mal” (“Pablo Escobar: The Boss of Evil”) proved to be a huge hit in Colombia, where it was produced, and it’s going like gangbusters in southern Florida, too. The 63-episode biopic — shot partially in Miami — chronicles the rise and fall of the infamous South American drug lord. It bowed on Telemundo in July.

Sacramento, Calif.

“Mike & Molly,” a CBS sitcom about a corpulent cop-and-teacher couple, does substantially better in California’s capital than most anywhere else, including Chicago, where it’s set.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is no stranger to a scandal, which might be why Shonda Rhimes’ political drama by the same name resonates inside the beltway. They dig it in Atlanta, too. “Scandal” stars Kerry Washington as crisis management whiz Olivia Pope, a character inspired by former White House deputy press secretary Judy Smith.

New York City

The Big Apple must have a healthy hunger for vengeance given the popularity of ABC’s Sunday sudser “Revenge.” Either that or New Yorkers just really love the Hamptons.

Portland, Ore.

NBC’s Friday night suspenser “Grimm” enjoys fairy tale-like ratings in Oregon’s largest city, where the supernatural police procedural is set and filmed.

St. Louis

“Vegas” is on a winning streak. The Dennis Quaid-starring freshman CBS series about Sin City in the 1960s fares well in St. Louis and shines in Phoenix, too.

Tampa, Fla.

This part of the Sunshine State sure likes its zombies. AMC’s apocalyptic fright fest scored its best season three debut here. That Oct. 14 opener ranked as the fifth most popular show that week, trailing only football and “NCIS.”

Cleveland, Ohio

What show does well everywhere but is really hot in Cleveland? ABC’s long-running competition “Dancing with the Stars,” whose recently wrapped all-star season routinely cracked the top two spots for the week’s most-watched shows.


“Chicago Fire” has caught on here more than anywhere else. And “Modern Family,” one of the most popular shows across the country, has an especially loyal fan base in Chicago (and Seattle), where the ABC comedy regularly ranks among the week’s top 3 programs when you factor out sports. Unlike in other markets, “Modern Family” consistently bests CBS’ hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Los Angeles

A trio of telenovelas on the Spanish-language network Univision — “Abismo de Pasion” (“Abyss of Passion”), “Por Ella Soy Eva” (“For Her I’m Eva”) and “Amor Bravio” (“Fierce Love”) — dominate here and in Houston (but not in Chicago, which also has a high Hispanic population). The Nov. 5 two-hour finale of “Abismo de Pasion” made Univision the No. 1 network for the time period among the key adult demo (ages 18-49) in L.A., Houston, Miami and Phoenix.

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