With a population of over 2.7 million, Chicago is a dynamic and diverse city, which makes it the perfect backdrop for many TV shows, especially cop and medical dramas!
Some shows use the city as just a setting, while others dig right into the core of the city, hoping to capture its essence.
No one series has a "correct" depiction — they are all stories seen through various characters, experiencing different situations in the many, versatile neighborhoods.
But, one thing that they all have in common? An undying love for the city; their Chicago. If you've been to Chicago you've probably heard the phrase, "Chicago is the new Hollywood."
Truthfully, Chicago will never churn out as many TV shows as Hollywood, and it doesn't want to; the rise in shows signifies everyone can find something to relate to in the city of Chicago.
So, if you have even a sliver of love for Chi-town, you have to check out these shows. Let us know if you have any other recommendations!
The remake of the British series uses Chicago as a backdrop for the uber-dysfunctional Gallagher family. Frank Gallagher is a single father of six and a drunk who spends more time at bars than with his children. In their parents' absence, the eldest kids are forced to take on the responsibilities and raise themselves. Particularly, Fiona who tries her best to hold the family together.
Chicago Fire is the firstborn from Mr. NBC himself, Dick Wolf. Wolf captivated audiences with the rescue squad and paramedics of Chicago Firehouse 51 — specifically dreamy Leuitenant Kelly Severide. Aside from the bravery of the diverse team — who cohesively charge headfirst into danger to save the people of Chicago — the show entices with authentic relationships. The city not only serves as a backdrop, it's a leading character with writers showcasing the best and worst of the city and its inhabitants.
The success of Chicago Fire convinced Wolf that Chicago was the perfect city for a franchise. And so Chicago PD was born. Now, this isn't your average cop show. Nu-uh, not in Chicago. There are a lot of great things about this city but it's undeniably also one of the most politically corrupt. Or as President Donald Trump has said on several occasions, a crime "epidemic" and "total disaster." This makes it the perfect setting for a show spearheaded by suspected dirty cop Hank Voight, who uses questionable methods to get justice yet garners much loyalty and respect from his team. Intelligence handles the toughest cases in the Chi, including those of gang violence, drugs and racial injustice — they've seen it all.
Where there's fire and PD, there's also med. Continuing down the list of Dick Wolf shows, we've got the third installment, a medical drama with a cast as diverse as the neighborhoods in Chicago. Despite the lack of funding, Sharon Goodwin and the team work together to provide quality healthcare to their patients. Staying in the theme of the city, there are plenty of gun-shot wound victims, and a handful of homeless and drug-addicted patients, which often calls for psych consults from the renowned Dr. Charles. With three successful shows dominating NBC, there are plenty of opportunities for some gripping crossovers.
Three time's a charm but four is an overstay. Wolf tried for a fourth show in the "Chicago" franchise, but fans simply didn't bite on Chicago Justice. Although it lasted a mere season, it definitely made an impact. If you're a fan of any of the three shows, or Wolf's other cult-hit Law & Order, it's a must watch. PD's Antonio even joins the no-fuss team led by Assistant State's Attorney Peter Stone, who is described as relentless in his quest for justice. There's also a L&O connection with Stone being the son of New York City District Attorney Ben Stone.
Scandalous, messy, gifted — that's Empire. Former hip-hop artist and CEO of Lyon Enterprises Luscious Lyon finds out that he's plagued by an incurable health ailment and is forced to choose a successor. The drawback? All three of his sons have their equal share of talents and shortcomings. His over-the-top and ferocious ex-wife Cookie Lyon is released from prison and poses a problem when she comes to get what's hers after taking the fall for his drug dealings back in the day. Even though the series films in Chicago, they pretend it's New York. Usually, I'd be ruffled by that, however, Empire's production opened up the doors for Chicago to become a sort of second-hand Hollywood, which aspiring actors in Chicago have been thankful for. If you look closely at various scenes, you'll see our beautiful skyline dubbing in for NY's.
Mike & Molly
Helmed by local Chicagoan and funny-gal Melissa McCarthy, the series finds her character Molly falling for Mike, a Chicago police officer she meets at Overeaters Anonymous. There's nothing better than bonding over a few slices of pie! Together, they become each other's support system as they embark on their journey to lose weight. Did I mention they're Cubs fans? Bonus!
Married... with Children
Much like Mike & Molly, some shows don't give Chicago the acknowledgment it deserves. The cast of Married... with Children live in Chicago but they rarely showcase the city. Still, we'll take all the love we can get, even if it's just a mention here and there. The Bundy's were "not the Cosby's." In other words: a dysfunctional family living in a fake suburban town of Chicago in the 80s/90s. Al Bundy, once the hottest football player in school, is a miserable shoe salesman while his wife, Peggy Bundy, once the hottest girl in the school is an unmotivated TV junkie. The "children" are ditzy and promiscuous Kelly and dysfunctional, yet brainy, son Bud. Props for making Buckingham Fountain so synonymous with the theme song!
Lincoln Burrows is convicted for a crime he didn't commit and put on Death Row. His brother Michael Scolfield makes it his mission to help him break out of prison. His desire sets into motion several nearly-impossible plans, including one that involves him deliberately getting locked up in the Chicago-based prison to help from the inside. If you're into shows that get your blood pumping while also focusing on the unbreakable bond between brothers, this is for you!
The Crazy Ones
The single-camera workplace comedy is bittersweet because it's Robin Williams' final role before his untimely death. In the single-season series, Williams' outlandish and personality-driven character Simon Roberts shines a light on the advertising world in Chicago. Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum Sarah Michelle Geller serves as his right-hand gal in the role of ambitious partner and Type-A daughter, Sydney Roberts.
Most medical shows focus solely on the professional lives of doctors, but this medical comedy follows three Chicago EMT's and the hilarity that ensues both at work and in their personal lives. During its two-season run, the series remembered to tackle serious issues of sexuality, mental disorders, etc. while never forgetting to offer up a much-needed laugh.
A gentrifying Chicago neighborhood gets the spotlight on Superior Donuts. Nothing brings people together like donuts, also a popular staple in the Windy City. Donut shop owner Arthur is a Chicago-native who is "stuck in his ways" and doesn't want to update the menu in fear of ruining a good thing. Things immediately change when Franco gets a job at the shop and convinces him that modernization isn't always bad. What is bad? Fawz, a real-estate capitalist who desperately wants Arthur to sell the business.
Corrupt politics is the name of the game in Chicago. Kelsey Grammer stars as Mayor Tom Kane, a powerful and thus, untouchable, man in Chicago. Kane gets things done but at a cost, which the constituents turn a blind-eye too because you know, stuff's getting done. Despite his stature, he leads an empty and lonely life, which becomes very apparent to him when he's diagnosed with dementia. Unfortunately, the series was canceled after two seasons and coincidentally, Grammer blamed it on "politics."
One of the most favored horror films found a home in Chicago. The anthology thriller follows two priests, Father Tomas Ortega and Father Marcus Keane, who are helping the Rance family deal with demonic possession. The family patriarch suffers a traumatic brain injury, his daughter's Katherine and Casey exhibit odd behavior with the latter hearing voices, while mom Angela believes there's a demonic presence in the house. Both priests butt heads in terms of how to handle such a horrifying situation, but it's no secret that their skills and faith are this family's only shot at overcoming the evil within them.
The Chicago Code
Before there was Chicago PD, Shawn Ryan created The Chicago Code, which lasted a whole 13-episodes. But, don't be dissuaded; those 13 showed the slithery side of Chicago Alderman Ronin Gibbons, who respected CPD veteran Jared Wysocki thinks is "dirty." Shocker! Wysocki's never been able to hold onto a partner, but that changes with new addition Caleb, who impresses with his motivation and quick wits. Jennifer Beals stars as Teresa Colvin, Wysocki's ex-partner, whose fierceness and ambition made her the first female superintendent in the city.
The Disney channel spin-off of That's So Raven follows besties, Raven and Chelsea, both divorced parents, trying their best to raise their children. Chelsea moves into Raven's Chicago apartment with her son Nevin, a savvy little brainiac who takes care of her instead of the other way around. Raven discovers that one of her two kids inherited the ability to see the future, which continues to get them into loads of trouble.
Like I said before, there's no shortage of police dramas hailing from the Windy City, however, APB takes a different approach. When Gideon's friend is murdered and the mystery goes unsolved at the under-funded CPD, the engineer invests millions of his own dollars to form a private police force. The newly assembled force hits the streets with advanced crime-fighting technology, which doesn't sit well with some folks who aren't ready for the future to happen right this second.
The original medical drama obviously had to make its way onto our list. Set in the fictional County General Hospital in Chicago, the drama follows nurses and doctors as they deal with life-saving and heart-breaking professional decisions, while simultaneously trying to balance their personal relationships. Spanning an impressive 15 seasons, ER launched the careers of George Clooney and Julianna Margulies.
The South Side of Chicago is known for being the "most dangerous place" in the city. The seemingly "out-of-control violence" narrative that lends itself to many TV shows and many of Trump's speeches serves as inspiration for Lena Waithe's new Showtime drama, which hopes to shine a real, unfiltered light on those dangers, the police, and the people who live in those parts of town. An event shakes the community to the core and connects Emmett, Brandon, Ronnie and Kevin, who are relentless and refuse to lose their dreams and passions to the streets. The series is expected to be the closest, unobstructed depiction of the city that any show has offered up, which makes sense considering Waithe is a Chicagoan herself.
The Mob Doctor
You never want to get in bed with the mafia, especially in Chicago. Sadly, that's where promising young surgeon Dr. Grace Devlin finds herself thanks to her brother. To pay off his gambling debt, she promises to work off-the-record for the gang. Hoping her two worlds don't clash, she does everything in her power to keep her "second life" a secret. Basically, the title is the show's premise: she's a mob doctor.
The Good Wife
After a sex-scandal lands her unworthy, former Cook County State's Attorney husband in prison, Julianna Margulies' character Alicia takes charge of her life by returning to her career in law. The leading lady is more than just a woman scorned, she's a champion for women who are side-swept by reality and find the strength to re-establish themselves and continue upward for the sake of their family. The series is SET in Chicago but doesn't actually film here, which is, of course, a major flaw but one we're willing to overlook.
The Real O'Neals
Chicago has a large Irish population and the Catholic real O'Neals are part of it. The seemingly perfect family blows up their facade in the first episode when each of the members reveals a secret to the community — one is gay, one is anorexic, one is atheist. The matriarch, Eileen, who cares deeply about what others think is embarrassed but harboring her own secret about divorce. Even better than the truth-bombs is seeing how they move forward and support each other.
You may have never heard of Chicago Hope, yet it served as ER's competition, one that often provided much-needed lighthearted moments. Doctors and surgeons at a major Chicago hospital fight against Dr. Phillips Watters' unreasonable rules to provide top-notch service to their patients, all while dealing with personal home-life and relationship woes.
The 80s sitcom about a young girl being raised by her foster parent "takes place" in Chicago, although only the credits were filmed here. Penelope aka "Punky's" (hey, Soleil Moon Frye) mother abandons her in a grocery store with her dog. Not wanting to live in an orphanage, the optimistic kiddo befriends Chicago photographer Henry and teaches him (and us) some valuable lessons about life. Bonus points for her vivid wardrobe!
Chicago has mad love for sports — Cubs, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Sox — so The League, a comedy about some folks who don't mess around when it comes to sports or their fantasy football league, fit right in. The "win at all costs" mentality starts spilling over into their real lives and as you can imagine, it does more harm than good. The drawback, as per usual, is that the series never filmed in the city even though Gibsons Bar and & Steakhouse in the Gold Coast serves as the hangout. For what it's worth, at least they had Jay Cutler guest-star when he was a Bear.