Chicago Hope, David E. Kelly's infamous doctor-drama, premiered on September 18, 1994. Six years later, the show was canceled after its final season's finale, which aired on May 4, 2000. Even though "Hope" couldn't beat its direct competitor ER in the ratings race, the show still had a lot of good things going for it. Chicago Hope was nominated for a myriad of highly prestigious awards during its run. Many of these awards were lost to ER and other dramas but leading-lady Christina Lahti did receive both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her performances on the show.
Critic Mark Harris, even when as far as saying, "Lahti is, no question, the best dramatic actress in prime time." (Entertainment Weekly, Oct. 4, 1996 p. 51) Also, Hector Elizondo received an Emmy for his supporting role and people involved in off screen production won multiple awards. Chicago Hope was loved by critics even when being directly compared to ER.
Chicago Hope was basically CBS's answer to ER; a drama about doctors, taking place in a teaching hospital in Chicago, that aired on Thursdays at ten. The cast was constantly changing due to the constant ratings battle CBS was waging against NBC. Behind the scenes, CBS put its money on Executive Producer/Writer David E. Kelly who, at the time, was just coming off a successful run with Picket Fences; while NBC also went with a big name Producer/Writer/Novelist in Michael Crichton. Also, "Hope" used numerous directors and guest directors over the course of its six-year run, keeping the show fresh. Aside from the battle with ER and the constantly changing staff, this show definitely met or exceeded all of the requirements for a "quality TV" series outlined by Professor Robert J.
Thompson in his book Television's Second Golden Age. Chicago Hope was not your everyday TV escape. It was a show that made the viewer actually think about what was going on in both the show and the real world. It brought up issues that actually affected the lives of the people watching. It dealt with controversial issues like death, birth control, and AIDS. In the words of critic Ken Tucker, ."..
in a fall season with little quality [this is a] solid drama." (Entertainment Weekly, Sept. 23, 1994 p. 52) Furthermore, "Hope" was the brainchild of Producer David E. Kelly, which, before the premiere even aired, meant that it was of high quality. Chicago Hope drew viewers with white-collar demographics. Ken Tucker also pointed this out calling the program, ."..
the most popular drama in the medically insured world," referring to the economic standing of the shows regular viewers. Also, Chicago Hope had to fight to stay on the air during its battle with ER. This was due in part to the decisions by network execs that changed both the cast and the time slot numerous times. Furthermore, "Hope" exploited a large ensemble cast (ten main characters were on cast at the end of the shows run) that allowed Kelly to explore intricate plot lines and events that would build off each other. This show was based on great writing and acting with Kelly and his fellow writers creating plots more complex than the normal TV viewer is accustomed to. In addition to the intricate plots the show would often carry over from episode to episode, which Professor Thompson describes as having a memory.
These elements made the show much more involved while adding a feel of pronounced realism. On the surface, Chicago Hope was a hospital drama but it also mixed other genres into its complex plots. Ken Tucker refers to one of the shows subplots as being, "out of D. H. Lawrence," referring to the near soap opera portrayal of one of Kathryn Austin's romances.
"Hope" mixed drama, romance, and comedy while still being a serious program. This mixing of genres made Chicago Hope all the more interesting to watch while still being a very realistically portrayed show. Chicago Hope was without a doubt a quality program. It blended many different writing, acting, and directing styles into a beautiful program under the guidance of Executive Producer David E.
Kelly. It was one of those shows that come along very seldom, uplifting their audiences while making them examine their own lives. Viewers who actually care about what they are watching will miss "Hope" but it won't be missed too much because as we all know ER is still on the air.