Goodbye Chicago Code. Many will miss you – but others won’t.
Welcome to upfront season.
In what can be described as a television version of a massacre, Fox deep-sixed five shows late Tuesday, including the shot-in-the-Windy City cop drama The Chicago Code. Despite strong ratings locally (the series usually finished behind ABC’s Dancing With The Stars in its Monday night time slot), the series didn’t fare as well nationally, with the show hitting an all-time low adult demo rating of 1.6 on May 2.
In addition to Chicago Code, Fox also dropped crime dramas Human Target and Lie to Me and comedies Traffic Light and Breaking In.
Fox did pick up four new shows for next season – two dramas and two comedies, in addition to committing to X Factor and sci-fi drama Terra Nova: Dramas Alcatraz (produced by J.J. Abrams and features former Lost star Jorge Garcia) and Bones spin-off The Finder, while the comedies are The New Girl and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, the latter a multi-camera comedy – the first on Fox since the ill-fated Brothers in 2009.
As for The Chicago Code, the series – which debuted to disappointing numbers on February 7 – never was able to constantly grow its audience and while the Jennifer Beals-led program was praised by TV critics for its well-written scripts and gritty look (a 75 score on Metacritic), the show was blasted by some locals, with the most common complaint as the series being too unrealistic (e.g. “The Irish Mob”.) Not surprisingly (and pretty much expected), much of the criticism of Chicago Code came from some Chicago police officers, as the Second City Cop blog attests.
Another problem for Chicago Code – as well as another set-in-Midwestern city cop drama (Detroit 1-8-7) – is the series often reflected both cities’ all-too real crime problems. After a long day, did anyone want to sit back and watch something they can find on their local newscast every night at 10? Believe it or not, many don’t. Another reason why Code failed is viewers simply won’t watch gritty crime-dramas – a good example of this is The Wire: while the shot-in-Baltimore series won many awards, it was one of HBO’s lowest-rated shows – viewers were simply not interested.
Finally, shooting a series in Chicago isn’t cheap – in fact, high costs did in the 1993-94 syndicated revival of the 1960’s action series The Untouchables, which was based on the 1987 shot-in-Chicago film of the same name. With declining ratings and increasing production costs (not to mention advertisers bailing out of the series due to the series’ violence – an issue that plagued the series in its’ original run) – Paramount had no choice but to pull the plug on the series after just two seasons. The budget of Chicago Code was never revealed – but you can bet it was northward of $2 million per episode. And worse, the city now misses out on a financial windfall from a major series being shot in Chicago – more evident given the long-running and successful The Oprah Winfrey Show ends in about ten days.
With Chicago Code’s departure, the streak of scripted shot-in-Chicago flops continues. In addition to Untouchables, other series filmed in the Windy City that have come and gone include Chicago Story, What About Joan, and most recently, The Beast.