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Question of the Day

Friday, Apr 25, 2014

Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)

* Behind the Tribune firewalls are stories that say emails suggest at least a part of CNN’s Chicagoland scenes are staged.

From a related Kass column…

“Chicagoland” depicts the city we know, beautiful but with warts and broken places. And throughout, there is drama and conflict, from the painful closing of public schools to the senseless gang wars. There are heroes in it and there are failures.

There is even a death. The monitors beep at the county hospital, the doctors say “charge” and then “clear” and then nothing. You see bloody dressings on the floor at the surgeons’ feet. The camera bores in. You see a close-up of a man as he grows still.

But make no mistake: This is Rahm Emanuel’s story, his re-election campaign vehicle. This is the boss of Chicago selling his heroic narrative to American voters.

I’m in no position to judge the series. Whenever I have seen it listed in my cable guide, I click it only to find more MH370 coverage. That said, it wouldn’t totally surprise me if this were about politics. Coincidentally, or not depending on your cynicism levels, Supt. McCarthy played a central role in the Brick City miniseries that chronicled then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s struggle with that city’s murder rate.

Question:What is your take of the Chicagoland series? Did it accomplish anything for the good? What would you have done differently?

- Posted by Barton Lorimor        


15 Comments
  1. - VanillaMan - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 7:49 am:

    Everything political is staged. Everything on TV is staged. When you combine politics with television you get performance art that turns everyone with a brain - off.


  2. - OneMan - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 8:58 am:

    Really, did ANYONE think Rahm (or any previous mayor of Chicago in the last 20 years) would not have done as much stage management as possible?


  3. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 9:18 am:

    What a sellout by CNN. The funny thing is, I don’t think Emanuel came off well, at all.

    When you have kids crying because their school’s been closed, and they are afraid to cross gang lines to go to their new school, you don’t look heroic.


  4. - Cheswick - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 9:33 am:

    Not surprised. I don’t think he’s listed in the credits, but I have wondered if Ari was somehow involved in this (behind the scenes).


  5. - Bonsaso - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 9:40 am:

    They took real events and people and found an interesting narrative that made it good tv. I was interested to get to know what happens at Fenger High, what principals are faced with in some neighborhoods. The gang problems seem to be a cry for gun reform, with no adult leadership there is no one to negotiate with to get them to stop killing kids. I don’t think Rahm was the star, the city and it’s problems were. I didn’t learn anything about the Mayor, it was not personal enough with him. Maybe year round school would help once they get those air conditioners in all the schools.


  6. - A guy... - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 10:02 am:

    It’s the next phase of reality TV. Skew on cue.


  7. - Northsider - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    Bonsaso @ 9:40 has the right of it. From what I’ve seen of the show so far (a few episodes are waiting on the DVR), it’s done a very good job of presenting and juxtaposing two Chicagos: the affluent and the rest (which is itself a reflection of our wider situation these days). In doing so, I think the show has accomplished a good thing in that it’s opened a lot of eyes to the difficulty of overcoming entrenched poverty.

    Mayor Emanuel is one of the show’s foci, but how could he not be? He’s the mayor of a major city facing major problems. From what I’ve seen so far, the show has neither hurt nor helped him. It’s presented his perspective along with those of his opponents.

    He is who he is and if a credible candidate emerges to oppose him in 2015, he may or may not be re-elected. I doubt that “Chicagoland” will have any affect on that.


  8. - ChrisB - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    Hate to break it to you guys, but ALL reality TV is staged. None of it is true.


  9. - Wensicia - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    It’s probably the longest and most expensive political infomercial ever made. I’m not interested in self-aggrandizement as entertainment.


  10. - Darienite - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    Howard Beale’s ghost is laughing.


  11. - hawksfan - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:17 pm:

    I’ve watched the first six episodes and do not think the mayor has come off all that well. Yes, they certainly have tried to humanize him but that seems to fit with the narrative of the show as whole. They show a lot of the strong opposition to the mayor that exists. In my opinion the emails seem to be more a stroking of ego to get more access, rather than a plan in conjunction with the mayor to “sell” him to voters.


  12. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 12:32 pm:

    The connections to Rahm’s brother seemed odd, but I gave CNN, Robert Redford and even Rahm the benefit of the doubt.

    I actually believed them when they said Chicagoland was going to be done independently, without any outside control or influence on this “unscripted” show. This wasn’t some small local outfit, this was CNN. They would portray the “real” Chicago, for better or worse.

    So much for that.


  13. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    If John Kass wrote or said something, it aint true. I think there’s a very good reason why Rich won’t post anything that pos says and writes.


  14. - West Side the Best Side - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 2:52 pm:

    As much as I hate to agree with him, John Kass is right about this one. While the first couple episodes would hint at the rough side of Rahm, about midway in the series it switched to pure Rahm puffery. I’m almost surprised he’s not going to Rome over the weekend to make it a trinity of saints with John XXIII and John Paul II based on Chicagoland. It did show various sides of Chicago that many people don’t really know exist in any detail - e.g. Englewood, Fenger, Stroger Hospital - but, come on, how does Billy Dec relate to real Chicago problems. The whole series was just a big Rahm political infomercial that he didn’t have to pay for. But somehow the taxpayers will, I don’t know how, but that’s The Chicago Way. Too bad Rahm didn’t get to use the show to announce the great air-conditioner plan which will magically cause a drop in crime this summer. If I was a copper or fireman I’d sure be wondering where the money comes from for air-conditioners, the 312 Trail, DePaul’s new stadium but there’s nothing to put in pensions. One final thought, not much mention was made in the program of middle class Chicago - you, know, the ones who pay for all the brilliant ideas of Chicago’s all-powerful mayors and their rubber-stamp city council.


  15. - Just The Way It Is One - Friday, Apr 25, 14 @ 3:26 pm:

    Sheez–life gets BUSY at times, ya know?! And in all utter truth, I must confess that I haven’t yet been graced with seeing, let alone assessing this “Chicagoland” series as yet…! (But– interesting to read everybody ELSE’s take on it)!


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