‘Chicago Med’ Review: NBC’s Formulaic Hospital Drama Is Easy on the Eyes

Dick Wolf expands franchise fueled by catastrophe and attractive actors

Last Updated: November 17, 2015 @ 7:57 PM

If you’ve ever watched NBC’s “Chicago Fire” or its spinoff “Chicago P.D.,” then you’re familiar with Dick Wolf‘s winning formula: Pretty young faces plus recognizable veteran actors plus life threatening accidents equals ratings success.

So it should come as no surprise that “Chicago Med,” which debuts tonight and is the third drama in the franchise, has all the same things working for and against it as its predecessors. None of these shows are groundbreaking. All have dialogue that is lumpy. But for viewers who crave the familiar, there is something comforting about attractive people saving the day.

In the case of “Chicago Med,” the comely include Yaya DaCosta (“Whitney”), Colin Donnell (“Arrow”), Brian Tee (“The Wolverine”) and Torrey DeVitto (“The Vampire Diaries”) while venerable stars Oliver Platt and S. Epatha Merkerson bring all the gravitas they can muster as the show’s big names.

In the pilot, for instance, Merkerson (“Law & Order”) is a welcome presence as a tough talking hospital administrator with a heart while Platt more than satisfies as the voice of reason and the chief of psychiatry. This is a marked improvement over the constant flirting, pouting, mating and bickering that defines their hot junior costars, a group that also includes Nick Gehlfuss (“Shameless”).

His character, Dr. Will Halstead, bumps heads with newcomer Dr. Connor Rhodes (Donnell), who just so happens to be on a city train when it derails. Meanwhile, nurse April Sexton (DaCosta) and Dr. Natalie Manning (DeVitto) have a tiff or two.

Thankfully for their homely patients, trauma is their lifeblood. So after real life Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel makes a cameo and the aforementioned train runs off the rails leaving countless people injured, these young but ambitious doctors and nurses put their petty differences aside and spring into action as the life saving rock stars they truly are.

But for how many episodes can these characters stay in boxes of predictability before the show flatlines? If Merkerson and Platt remain impervious and DaCosta and the gang fail to evolve beyond their duties in the emergency room, this show — comfortably familiar or not — is doomed for Snoresville. Too bad Laurie Holden bailed from “Chicago Med” because she could’ve brought another layer of much needed depth.

In the meantime, “Chicago Med” has a few things going for it — among them a diverse cast, more than a few passing similarities to past hospital hits including “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” an enviable timeslot behind “The Voice” and a future filled with franchise-inspired crossover episodes and guest appearances.

After all, Wolf knows how to entertain us with his brand of gritty, pretty crime procedurals and with stronger character development, “Chicago Med” could improve its prognosis.

“Chicago Med” premieres Tuesday November 17 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.