Chicago Fire Is Soapy, But In the Best Way


Watching Chicago Fire has always felt nostalgic, even in the beginning.

The pacing, the dialogue, and the often unrealistic (but still highly entertaining) storylines are reminiscent of the daytime soap operas that you might remember from spending sick days off school at your grandma’s house.

To be clear, that’s the highest compliment a show could receive.

The thing about Chicago Fire is that it blends soapy tropes with all the best aspects of primetime TV and delivers a fun, emotional, steamy product as a result.

Who doesn’t love a show that can make you laugh, cry, roll your eyes, and cringe all in the same episode?

Chicago Fire is fast-paced. The writers love to jam as much into an hour as they possibly can, and it works because it keeps us focused throughout the episode.

It’s hard to find other shows that are similarly paced, but daytime soap operas come close. How many storylines does Days of Our Lives pack into a season?

With the continued popularity of One Chicago, it’s easy to forget that these shows have been going for so long. The talented team of writers behind Chicago Fire has managed to keep each season fresh and suspenseful, which is no easy task after nearly fourteen years.

They do it by telling human stories in a dramatic way. Are they the first to do it? No. They won’t be the last, either. However, the particular style of storytelling is comforting in a soapy way. It’s relatable but unrealistic enough that it doesn’t feel stressful to engage with.

Much like soap operas, Chicago Fire gives us approximately a thousand main characters to root for.

If someone asked you to list all the major characters of this show from Chicago Fire Season 1 Episode 1 until the present day, you might need to sit down and take a minute to gather your thoughts. (Hard mode: you can’t use our handy cast guide to cheat!)

On the surface, you might expect a loaded cast to feel overwhelming and hard to follow.

But somehow, it just gives us more characters to connect with and get attached to. There’s someone for everyone.

Whether you’re a Kelly Severide stan or you prefer the more chaotic nature of Vince Keeler, you can find comfort in someone from Chicago Fire.

We’re also suckers for a good crossover. One Chicago hits the spot with frequent cameos by characters from sister shows.

Soaps like The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless gave us frequent crossovers, scratching the itch — we like to feel like we’re in on the universe, and crossovers bring us into the fold.

It’s a genius move on the network’s part, too. They can weave stories together in ways that make it difficult to keep up without tuning into all of the in-universe shows.

Our favorite example of this is the marriage between Chicago Fire’s Mouch and his wife, Trudy, whose character is primarily on Chicago P.D. Or maybe it’s the sibling relationship between P.D.’s Jay Halstead and Chicago Med‘s Will Halstead.

Either way, One Chicago pulls off this soapy trend exceptionally well, especially considering how often it happens.

No matter how normal it is to see crossovers between these shows, we’re always excited to see Trudy in an episode of Chicago Fire.

We love to see her show up and save the day, like she did on Chicago Fire Season 12 Episode 9. Her presence was a welcome surprise, and without her, Mouch would have been way over his head.

Soap operas have a certain reputation for being cheesy and over-the-top. Look, we’re not saying that’s entirely untrue. We’ve seen enough characters come back from the dead on daytime television to know that soaps can beat a trope into the ground.

But what critics often fail to acknowledge is that the cheesiness is part of the charm. We’re not looking for actors with classical training or stories that will go down in history.

When we engage with soaps, we want to feel emotional but not devastated. We want to feel a little suspense but not stress. We’re in it because the stakes are low.

We can shed a tear or two when a character leaves these shows, but deep down, we know there’s always a chance they’ll be back even if we watched the funeral scene.

It’s comforting to get invested in relationships like the one Severide shares with Stella Kidd, knowing that they’ll likely go the distance. Why? Because this show has enough going on without stirring the pot on a beloved couple.

There will always be naysayers who find shows like Chicago Fire beneath them.

But that’s okay. You can’t please everyone. Sure, the show has its moments that make us wonder if the writers are pranking us.

But most weeks, we enjoy every moment of the quick, mildly stressful episodes that make us nostalgic for those days on our grandma’s couch.

So, if you cringe every time you catch a Chicago Fire rerun during a late-night bout of insomnia, that’s okay.

You’ll find something you enjoy.

For the rest of us, we’ll keep finding comfort in the predictability and tuning in each week for our soapy fix.

Chicago Fire returns to the NBC lineup on Wednesday, May 1. You can stream the rest of the season on Peacock.

Haley Whitmire White is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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