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September 1, 2015

The Chicago Mode: A List of Notable Shows Set in the Windy City

by Maureen Ryan, posted Feb 7th 2011 3:15PM
'The Chicago Code,' which premieres tonight on Fox, is the latest in a long line of shows set in the Windy City, but alas, not all of the shows set in the Midwestern metropolis I call home have depicted it with much creativity, subtlety or thoughtfulness.

Sure, Katey Sagal and Ed O'Neill are terrific actors, but nobody's going to make the case that the stars of 'Sons of Anarchy' and 'Modern Family' were better off in the crude, Chicago-set sitcom 'Married ... With Children.' Trust me, given how often non-Chicagoans used to reference that show upon being introduced to an actual Chicagoan, I'm not sorry 'Married' eventually ended up in the television graveyard.

Still, some programs have depicted the city and its residents in compelling or at least mildly interesting ways. What follows is not a list of every show that has ever been set in Chicago, but a biased list of notable Chicago-centric shows from one lifelong White Sox fan.

Notable shows set in Chicago (in alphabetical order):

'The Bob Newhart Show' (1972–78): The opening credits of this classic sitcom depicted Newhart's character, Robert Hartley, walking through Chicago. We don't care if the show itself was filmed in L.A., we'll forever claim the dryly hilarious Dr. Hartley as our own.

'ER' (1994–2009): This show helped reinvent the medical drama and was a massive hit. Was that because it was set at Chicago's County General Hospital? Probably. OK, maybe there were other factors contributing to the show's success, but it was always a kick to come across the 'ER' crew shooting the occasional on-location scene in our fair city.

'Due South' (1994–99): This show was basically a by-the-book '90s cop procedural, but it was hard not to be at least a little charmed by the odd-couple working relationship of Canadian Mountie Benton Fraser (Paul Gross) and Chicago detective Ray Vecchio (David Marciano).

'Good Times' (1974–79): This sitcom Normal Lear was groundbreaking in many ways, and though producers quickly became far too enamored of a catchphrase ("Dy-no-mite!") and other clichés, it's worthwhile to recall that back in the day, a network took a chance on a sitcom about a working-class African-American family in Chicago -- and it was a huge hit.

'The Good Wife' (2009–present): This classy CBS drama does an excellent job of depicting the intertwined layers of Chicago's legal and political establishments, in which favors get done because you "know a guy who knows a guy." Alicia Florrick isn't a guy, but she's certainly learning how to play the game with the best of them.

'Hill Street Blues' (1981–87): It was never explicitly stated that this iconic cop show was set in Chicago, but just try telling my ex-cop father it wasn't. We Chicagoans knew the truth.

'Kolchak: The Night Stalker' (1974–75): Though this atmospheric drama about a Chicago reporter chasing down spooky stories only lasted one season, it left its mark on a whole generation of television writers and creators, and of course had a notable influence on 'The X-Files.'

'Prison Break' (2005–09): I lost interest after the first season, which was shot in Chicago, but that freshman season was a pretty entertaining thrill ride, and 'P.B.' used the city and the 150-year old Joliet Correctional Center to good effect.

Got your own additions to this list? Truth be told, I've never seen enough of 'Early Edition,' 'Chicago Hope' or the original 'Cupid' to form opinions about any of those Chicago-set shows. Anyone want to make a case for the inclusion of those shows or others I've left off my list? Sound off in comments!

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And Married with Children!

February 09 2011 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Perfect Strangers and Family Matters!!!! HELLO!!!!

February 09 2011 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Janelle Walker

Mo, surprised that you left out "Early Edition" because it did show lots of Chicago. Is that your Trib self coming out?

February 08 2011 at 6:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Make that Norman Lear.

"Love and Marriage" may not be the best thing to Chicagoans, but it must have been doing something right since it was on the air for nine seasons. They must've been doing something right.

February 08 2011 at 4:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
t one


February 08 2011 at 11:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Adam Baker

ER is the ulimate show for me. I grew up watching the show. i remembered when clooney left the show. my mother and grandmother cried. when i saw lucy and carter attack i was scared and teared up when lucy died. and when dr. greene died it was one of those moments in television that i don't think will ever be on television. when he died it was so emotional. in my mind it still the best shows on television.

I didn't even know that hill street blues took place in chicago. i love bob newhart.

February 07 2011 at 11:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Adam Baker's comment
Jim Nelson

They (deliberately) never said where Hill Street Blues was set, but most of the location shooting was done in Chicago.

February 08 2011 at 1:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Family Matters.

February 07 2011 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mo, there was nothing whatsoever "by-the-book about Due South". It was one of the funniest and subversive shows of all time. Even the character names were hilarious. Even Benton's deaf wolf companion, Diefenbaker.

February 07 2011 at 6:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to michaelj's comment

Ditto! Due South is easily within my top ten favorite shows of all time and is probably one of my most watched DVD sets. The writing was superb and Paul Gross's dry delivery was fabulous. Gold star Maureen.

February 07 2011 at 9:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Perfect Strangers!!

February 07 2011 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The US version of Shameless could be added to your list as well. (IMO, it is a pretty good show, even if it doesn't necessarily paint Chicago in the most flattering light.)

February 07 2011 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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