Two Hits And A Flop: Chicago PD, Chicago Med, Chicago Justice


This edition of Two Hits And A Flop focuses on the second, third, and fourth series in NBC’s Chicago franchise: Chicago PD, Chicago Med, and Chicago Justice. While Chicago PD has been renewed for Season 11 and Chicago Med for Season 9, Chicago Justice lasted only 13 episodes. Given original Chicago series Chicago Fire is entering Season 12 and the ratings successes of all three remaining series, it is highly likely that one or more Chicago series will ultimately have more seasons than Chicago Justice had episodes. While Chicago PD and Chicago Med are undeniably successful franchise installments, Chicago Justice in part put the rapid expansion of the franchise to a halt. 


In the 2016-17 TV season, the Chicagos were spread across NBC’s schedule. Chicago PD has aired in the Wednesdays at 10 pm time slot from the beginning of its run, and at the time aired after Law & Order: SVU. Chicago Med wasn’t as lucky airing Thursdays at 9 pm, but new sitcom The Good Place did over-perform a bit for NBC comedy standards and The Blacklist was a solid lead-out. However, it went on hiatus in mid-November in favor of Thursday Night Football.

In spring 2017, NBC tried launching Chicago Justice, a fourth Chicago series. At the same time, they gave Chicago Med a significantly weaker lead-in in Powerless, a sitcom that was eventually pulled from the schedule. Meanwhile, Chicago Justice would air Sundays at 9 pm after the second season of NBC’s Steve Harvey-hosted reality series Little Big Shots. Chicago Justice’s Sundays at 9 pm time slot made it air against The Walking Dead for five of its first seven episodes. The other two episodes were the series premiere, a Wednesday crossover with Chicago Fire and Chicago PD, and the third episode, a random post-This Is Us airing on a Tuesday.

NBC had good intentions by giving Chicago Justice a post-This Is Us airing, and likely wanted to compare it to Chicago Fire’s performance (a 1.3 out of a 3.0 for Justice compared to Fire’s most recent 1.6 out of a 2.5). However, Chicago Justice’s initial schedule hopping may have confused some viewers of how to watch the first few episodes, and ultimately hurt the show. On Sundays, it usually barely cracked a 1.0 in the Adults 18-49 Live + Same Day demo. Its Sunday ratings were mostly stable and it wasn’t all that reliant on its Little Big Shots lead-in, with retention looking solid at some points and weak at others. Still, being stable is outweighed by being the fourth-highest-rated show with Chicago in its name.  

Franchise Overexposure

At the time, it was a rather confusing decision to launch a fourth Chicago series. The franchise had grown in the ratings from its beginnings, but was by no means one that deserved more shows simultaneously airing than say, CBS’s NCIS franchise. Chicago Justice arguably premiered at the wrong place and the wrong time. Perhaps it could have done well if it was the second installment in the Chicago franchise, airing after the more compatible Law & Order: SVU; it would, of course, be a slightly different show as one of the characters on Justice was moved over from PD. 

Scheduling four Chicago shows across four different nights runs the risk of overexposure for the franchise. Chicago Justice may just have been unlucky enough to be that fourth show. Before Chicago Justice premiered, Dick Wolf was talking about a fifth Chicago series. Over seven years later, said fifth series is nowhere in sight. This is despite the Chicago franchise reaching new heights shortly after the cancelation of Chicago Justice. 

Why Chicago PD and Chicago Med Are Hits

Chicago PD was much luckier than Chicago Justice. It aired after Law & Order: SVU, and premiered at the same time as Chicago Fire was starting to see ratings growth. Chicago Med also received early exposure, airing most of its first season sandwiched between The Voice and Chicago Fire. While Chicago Justice proved a Chicago show was capable of flopping, NBC made every effort for PD and Med (and Fire for that matter) to be hits. It’s not unprecedented for three shows of the same franchise to air at once; just look at CSI, NCIS, and Law & Order. Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD are now a power block on Wednesdays, with Chicago Justice long forgotten.

Why Chicago Justice Flopped

It’s quite possible NBC could have gotten away with airing a fourth Chicago anyways in the right circumstances. The Chicagos have been some of NBC’s highest-rated shows as a Wednesday block, to the point where a fourth show may just have worked. Maybe a brand new series called Chicago Justice could be airing after Law & Order: SVU today instead of Law & Order: Organized Crime. Maybe Chicago PD could have made the move to Thursdays with SVU, making room for Chicago Justice on Wednesdays. Justice actually did quite well for its crossover Wednesday premiere, getting a 1.7 rating at 10 pm after PD’s 1.9 rating at 9 pm and Med’s 1.7 rating at 8 pm. NBC and Dick Wolf may just have gotten ahead of themselves by premiering a fourth Chicago series in 2017. Had they waited, there may be four Chicago series airing today.

Chicago Justice was arguably not destined to fail. It simply had poor circumstances and aired at a time where there was not demand for four Chicago series. With Chicago Fire not being sold into syndication the way NBC had expected, cutting down on the franchise only made sense at the time. Letting go of the one that was lowest-rated and the farthest away from syndication was the natural decision, leaving Chicago Justice as one-and-done.

Could Chicago Justice Make A Comeback?

At this point, it probably would not be wise to revive Chicago Justice. As much as this show fits the bill of what-could-have-been, it’s already flopped. Additionally, despite high ratings, the budgets have been cut for the Chicagos going forward. It is interesting how NBC re-expanded the Law & Order franchise since Chicago Justice’s cancelation, and perhaps NBC finds a spot for a revival should they decide to cancel one of the existing Law & Orders. However, it’s more likely that we can assume Chicago Justice as a show only remembered for being a franchise’s one true failure. 

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