Chicago NBC: How Long Can They Rely On Chicago?

Dick Wolf, the creator of the mega-successful (and still growing) Law & Order franchise, is perhaps just as well known today for the creation of his Chicago franchise. Chicago Fire is constantly winning its time slot (by a lot), as is Chicago PD, while Chicago Med appears to be NBC's next golden child in the medical drama department; sorry, Heartbeat and The Night Shift. In addition, legal-driven Chicago Justice will premiere midseason, while Mr. Wolf hasn't shied away from admitting that he
already has a fifth series in the works. And to think, Chicago Fire didn't even premiere until 2012! Compared to franchises like NCIS and even Law & Order, the Chicago franchise kind of came all at once. And while none of them are huge hits like the biggest shows in the other franchises mentioned, Chicago basically saved NBC from the gutter, which was still recuperating from the failed Jay Leno 10pm experiment, and who had just found The Voice. And while rapidly expanding the Chicago franchise is a great short-term plan, NBC also needs to look long-term. On the scripted side, without Chicago, they have some marginal and solid players (The Blacklist, Shades of Blue, Superstore, Blindspot), but nothing all that big; unless, of course, they have one or more freshmen hits on their hands. Just how long can they rely on Chicago? What if all of a sudden all the shows collapsed in the ratings? Then what?

Well the good news is that Dick Wolf already has a new franchise in mind; the first of which is to focus on the FBI in New York. Not everything that Dick Wolf is behind works (remember Law & Order: LA?), but it has a good shot in doing so. With both the Law & Order franchise and the Chicago franchise still growing (seven Dick Wolf shows will air on NBC next season), it's possible that all three franchises coexist. But even more plausible would be to crank out as many Chicago shows they want now, tell the whole story, make reaps of profits in syndication and overseas sales, and phase it out. Not every franchise needs to last 26+ seasons like the Law & Order one. I'll be pretty surprised if in 2038 they premiere Chicago Kitchen. The rise and fall of Chicago over the course of "just" a decade is plausible. In the short term, NBC can rely on the franchise to do wonders for the network. But in the long term, I might suggest phasing out one franchise and starting another. Now that NBC is in better shape, they don't need to introduce one new Chicago show every season while renewing all the others.

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