With the premiere of the heavily anticipated (or just heavily hyped, we’re not sure) The Chicago Code tonight on FOX, the Windy City will add another title to its list of TV cop dramas that have been set there. Sure, the list is nowhere near as long as shows set in New York or L.A., but the City With Broad Shoulders has had its share of success.
Here are a few of the notable cop shows, arranged chronologically, that have been set, or shot in, Chicago (and no, we’re not counting Family Matters):
M Squad (1957-60)
Lee Marvin was never more Lee Marvin-y (and that’s a compliment, trust me) than in this hard-nosed crime drama remembered largely today for its impossibly cool Count Basie theme, which was added at the start of the second season. Marvin played Lt. Frank Ballinger, who was part of an elite squad of plainclothes detectives fighting the mob.
The Untouchables (1959-63)
The quintessential Chicago cop show featured a, shall we say, fanciful version of Eliot Ness’ fight against organized crime during Prohibition, taking its characters and situations from a novel the real-life Ness wrote with Oscar Fraley. It was led by the square-jawed Robert Stack in the Ness role, and a cavalcade of crime kingpins played by several name actors in early roles, including Robert Redford and Peter Falk. Gossip king Walter Winchell provided the memorable narration. The Untouchables found even greater success as the 1987 Brian De Palma film that won Sean Connery an Academy Award, with such immortal lines as “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way!” There was also a brief 1990s syndicated revival, which was mostly forgettable save for a nice turn by William Forsythe as Al Capone.
Hill Street Blues (1981-87)
OK, the setting for this classic Steven Bochco cop series was never named, and was largely understood to be somewhere on the East Coast, but the show’s intro, which features that iconic theme music, and other exterior shots were filmed in Chicago. Plus, there’s nobody more Chicagoan than Dennis Franz, who joined the cast later in its run as Lt. Norman Buntz.
Crime Story (1986-88)
Producer Michael Mann’s serialized police drama was rich in atmosphere, virtually swimming in its early 1960s setting. Del Shannon’s brooding classic “Runaway” was the perfect theme song, setting the stage for a layered tough guy story about Lt. Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) and his quest to take down gangster Ray Luca (Anthony Denison). The action switched to Las Vegas after Luca moved his operations out there, but for many, this will always be a Chicago show. Adding to the authenticity was the presence of Farina (and his mustache), who was a real-life Chicago cop for 18 years before becoming a totally awesome actor.
Due South (1994-98)
The tale of a Canadian Mountie assigned to the consulate duty in Chicago made a lot of hay out of poking fun at stereotypes of Canadians and Americans,. Constable Benton Fraser (Paul Gross) was the straight-arrow outdoorsman trying to fit in with his partner (David Marciano, then Callum Keith Rennie), the streetwise flatfoot. The show, which was — go figure — filmed in Toronto, has quite a cult following, and after its initial run on CBS ended it was revived in syndication.
Photo: © Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Peter Sorel/FOX