Which Chicago TV Series Should You Binge This Winter?

A flowchart.

January 17, 2017 9:00 am

Maybe you love single-digit weather, freezing rain and the daily Hunger Games-esque posturing for the heat lamps on CTA platforms.

Or maybe you’d rather enjoy the spoils of our fine frozen city from the comforts of your own home.

Which is why we made a handy flowchart to help you decide which Chicago-based TV series you should binge-watch this winter.

Your Key:

Easy (Netflix)
Writer/director Joe Swanberg’s love of Chicago shines in this Netflix series. Each episode tells a story of love, sex, family or friendship in not always joyous but certainly realistics scenarios. Down-to-earth portrayals of couples struggling with change, adulthood and (in one case in particular) an Orlando Bloom/Malin Åkerman/Kate Micucci threesome make for compelling television in our book any day.

Chicago Fire/PD (NBC)
There’s a certain fandom that would follow Dick Wolf into any project regardless of what it was. Thankfully, these two Chicago dramas are some of his best in recent years and, from time to time, even surpass the often masterful Law & Order: SVU. Both shows are filmed in Chicago, so there’s a chance you’ll see familiar spots as you watch — or remember that time a production messed with your commute.

The Dresden Files (SyFy)
The short-lived Dresden Files was based on the sci-fi novel series of the same name and followed a professional wizard (yup, that’s apparently an accurate and serious selection of words we just had to type) as he assisted the Chicago police with some of their more mysterious cases. While it only ran for one season, it’s a fun and unique take on the classic crime drama formula.

Family Matters (ABC)
This TGIF all-star was actually a spin-off of Perfect Strangers (Harriet Winslow was a minor character), but the escalating antics of awkward super genius Steve Urkel is what kept us glued to our TVs. We wholeheartedly loved the ridiculous and unbelievable things that would happen on the show in general and to Urkel in particular. Robots, “Cool Juice” (gross), Urkel Dances, racist Bruce Lee impersonations, evil puppet doppelgangers, a jetpack to a crossover guest spot on Step By Step … somehow, audiences lapped up every minute of it. The ‘90s were a weird time.

The League (FXX)
The League portrayed seven raunchy seasons of a fantasy football league contested by the worst people on earth as they balanced life, work and degeneracy. A cast full of some of today’s best comedic actors (Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas) playing lifelong friends who find the greatest joy in shit-talking one another. Distilled down to the basics, The League is “Seinfeld with Sports,” but with substantially more dick jokes.

Married… with Children (Fox)
Who doesn’t know and love the Bundys? Audiences were given a decade-long lesson in dysfunction watching Married… with Children. Witnessing the stress of a working class family trying to make ends meet while dealing with their own baggage and problems allowed us to better deal with our own. The show didn’t pull any punches and wasn’t afraid to be crass, veering into the taboo and downright offensive (for its time) with no abandon.

Perfect Strangers (ABC)
With Perfect Strangers, we got to watch cousins Larry Appleton and Balki Bartokomous go from single loveable goofballs living in the Windy City to married loveable goofballs somehow living in a huge Victorian suburban home on the same salaries. It was impossible not to love the endearing fish-out-of-water Balki as he tried to make sense of the modernity of city life — and “The Dance Of Joy!” it tended to inspire in him.

Shameless (Showtime)
Shameless follows the down-and-out Gallagher family as they try to scrape by in North Lawndale. The driving force behind their successes and all too often, their failures, is the family itself. Though fictional, Shameless offers a more realistic view of life, dating and growing up than most TV. It’s a raw look into what it means to be poor in Chicago while still managing to be comedic and hopeful at all the right moments.

Sirens (USA)
Originally hailing from the UK, this workplace comedy was adapted by Denis Leary and follows a Chicago EMT crew. The quick-witted comedic moments make the ensemble cast immediately likeable and believable as a “work family” who have each other’s backs. Sirens was also the last appearance of actor Bill Nunn, who plays a no-nonsense beacon of wisdom to the often harebrained protagonists. A fine final role for his impressive career.

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