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Chicago times three with Fire, P.D. and now Med


Chicago Med makes it another trifecta for Dick Wolf. NBC photo

Premiering: Tuesday, Nov. 17th at 8 p.m. (central) on NBC
Starring: Colin Donnell, Nick Gehlfuss, S. Epatha Merkerson, Oliver Platt, Torrey DeVitto, Brian Tee, Rachel DiPillo, Yaya DaCosta
Produced by: Dick Wolf, Andrew Schneider, Diana Frolov, Matt Olmstead, Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Danielle Gelber, Arthur Forney, Peter Jankowski

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Producer Dick Wolf seemed to be on the verge of Hollywood extinction several years ago when NBC began separating itself from his longstanding Law & Order “brand” -- as he emphatically insists on calling it.

Only Law & Order: SVU survived after the Peacock had dropped the original Law & Order and spinoffs Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial By Jury and Law & Order: L.A..

But if the wolf seemed at the door, the Wolf man himself declined to run scared. Instead he fired back with Chicago Fire in 2012 and Chicago P.D. in early 2014. Now comes Chicago Med, giving the 68-year-old survivor with the prickly cactus personality another trio of interlocking parts. As he says in publicity materials, “characters on all three shows migrate freely” within their Windy City environ. The better to “crossover,” particularly during those higher-powered ratings “sweeps” months of November, February and May.

Starting Tuesday, Nov. 17th, Chicago Med is being paired with Chicago Fire, whose blaze-battling Christopher Herrmann (David Eigenberg) has a brief walk-on during the first episode of the newcomer. As hospital dramas go, it’s not in the same league with NBC’s long-running ER but has a stronger, more relatable opening episode than CBS’ new Code Black did.

Quickly registering is Colin Donnell as a newly arrived “trauma fellow” named Dr. Connor Rhodes. Not coincidentally it would seem, he has a more than passing resemblance to a young Jon Hamm. After some opening heroics during a subway car disaster, he trots his handsome visage over to state-of-the-art Gaffney Chicago Medical Center, which has just been dedicated by real-life Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

Patients are pouring in, mostly from the subway wreck. But there’s also a Northwestern University student who’s battled severe respiratory problems and crummy parents for his entire life. Kind-hearted Chief of Psychiatry Dr. Daniel Charles (an appealingly subdued Oliver Platt) has known young Jamie since he was an eight-year-old. So he fully empathizes, and they have some nice moments together.

The doctors are dedicated, of course. And throughout the first hour, they also pretty much get along. The young chief ER resident, Dr. Will Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss), can be a bit arrogant at times but is nowhere in the vicinity of Dr. Gregory House. NBC’s description of the series says he’s the brother of Det. Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer), a regular on Chicago P.D..

The always welcome S. Epatha Merkerson segues from the original Law & Order to a co-starring role on Chicago Med as hospital head Sharon Goodwin. The thoroughly diversified cast also includes Dr. Ethan Choi (Brian Tee); nurse April Sexton (Yaya DaCosta); unsteady fourth year medical student Sarah Reese (Rachel DiPillo); and Dr. Natalie Manning (Torrey DeVitto), a pregnant, prospective single mom.

Chicago Med breaks no new ground and is ever-ready to bring on either heartfelt piano music or urgent drumbeating, depending on whether a doctor is “having a moment” or handling a sudden medical crisis. Tuesday’s premiere includes two instances of MDs interceding in the interests of greater goods. Expect no surprises in that respect.

Viewers looking for the best new medical drama of this still young season can find it in Chicago Med. Then again, there are only two of them so far. So let’s not get too carried away while also not betting against Wolf someday extending his Chicago brand into the courtroom, city hall and maybe even the stockyards.

GRADE: B-minus

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