How CBS' FBI Compares To Dick Wolf's Other Crime Dramas
Spoilers lie ahead for the series premiere of FBI on CBS.
Dick Wolf is a legendary producer on the small screen thanks to the Law & Order franchise over on NBC, so it came as something of a shock when news broke that Wolf had a new show in the works at CBS. The new show is called FBI, and it stars Missy Peregrym and Zeeko Zaki as FBI agents based out of New York City. The premise of the series makes it sound more or less like a version of a Law & Order series set at the FBI rather than NYPD, so a big question was how FBI would compare to Dick Wolf's other crime dramas. The series premiere has finally aired, and we can finally say how FBI stands up against the various Law & Order shows.
The series premiere kicks off with a bomb explosion in an apartment building that kills a number of innocent people living there, including a 7-year-old boy who only wanted to go inside and play video games. FBI Agents Maggie Bell (Missy Peregrym) and OA Zidan (Zeeko Zaki) arrive on the scene in time to save some lives, but many others were lost, and the death of the little boy after Maggie prevented his mother from going in to try and find him makes the case personal for her. That was only the first of several explosions, and the agents had to work as quickly as possible to find the bombs before the worst could happen again.
With the help of brilliant analyst Kristen Chazal (Ebonee Noel) and her quick ability to learn how to defuse, as well as Special Agent In Charge Dana Mosier (Sela Ward) and Assistant SAC Jubal Valentine (Jeremy Sister), Maggie and OA track the explosions to white nationalist Robert Lawrence (Dallas Roberts), who set the deadly chain of events in motion. They stop the last bomb from going off in time for the next case to break.
The series premiere established FBI as a crime procedural, and although the stakes of the episode were higher than most cases of Law & Order over on NBC, this was the very first episode. The odds are probably pretty good that the FBI agents won't be chasing down domestic terrorists in every single episode, and not just because the show likely doesn't have the budget to show off as much destruction as was in the premiere on a weekly basis. The stakes will undoubtedly remain high; they just won't be domestic terrorism high. All of this said, FBI may not be a procedural exactly as we've come to expect from Dick Wolf crime dramas. This isn't Law & Order: FBI.
First, foremost, and most obvious is the fact that FBI is set at the Federal Bureau of Investigation rather than the NYPD or even the Chicago PD. Maggie has resources that the detectives over on Law & Order: SVU would love to have. The technology is vastly more advanced and readily available for the agents than on any of Dick Wolf's other dramas. They don't have to pull strings or call in favors to gain access to databases only available to federal agencies.
It's obviously too soon to say what exactly FBI will do with its characters, as Maggie is really the only one who got much of a backstory. That said, signs point toward more of a focus on character development than Dick Wolf's Law & Order series generally deliver. Of course, focusing on plot rather than character development isn't exactly a bad thing. The Law & Order franchise has been going for decades now, with SVU potentially breaking a record in the not-too-distant future. Still, an emphasis on character development -- if FBI does indeed pursue such a course -- could set it apart from other procedurals, and not just Law & Order. The mystery of what happened to Maggie's husband needs to be solved, and OA's history already seems intriguing.
FBI also doesn't seem to intend to devote time to the legal aftermath of the agents catching (or not catching) the bad guys. Unless future episodes go in some wildly different directions, we shouldn't expect half of each episode to be devoted to something other than solving cases and chasing down criminals. The details of putting the bad guys behind bars may take place after the credits. The lawyers may stay mostly off screen.
Perhaps most notably, FBI stands apart from Dick Wolf's other crime procedurals due to the simple fact that it airs on CBS. Dick Wolf's series on NBC take place in the same universe. Any and all shows in the Law & Order franchise are also in the same universe as the Chicago franchise currently comprised of Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med. Although perhaps FBI would benefit from a character from a hugely successful TV show helping to launch it (as the next Law & Order series may), airing on CBS means it can establish its own continuity without needing to account for major events that happen on other shows. FBI is a fresh start, and viewers don't need to do any kind of research into other shows to get what's going on.
We'll have to wait and see if FBI will be as much of a hit as Dick Wolf's other TV crime dramas. New episodes air on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS as one of the many new shows in the 2018 fall TV lineup.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.
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