Promising Start for CHICAGO JUSTICE
March 10, 2017 by Cameron Ciesil
After airing three new episodes within its first seven days on the air, NBC’s CHICAGO JUSTICE repeatedly dominated its various timeslots. The network’s newest midseason drama premiered at the tail end of the last week’s three hour #OneChicago crossover event and drew 8.73 million viewers nationwide with a 1.7 rating amongst 18-49 year old viewers. For the sake of explanation, that 1.7 represents 1.7% of every 18-49 year old viewer across the entire country at any given time. As for the crossover event’s two previous components, at 7PM CST CHICAGO FIRE saw 9.06 million viewers with a 1.7 rating and at 8PM CST, CHICAGO P.D. had 9.6 million viewers and a rating of 1.9. With a solid slate of three interconnecting programs, NBC won the night compared to all other major networks with an average viewership of 9.13 million.
While this news should delight both studio executives and Chicagoans working for NBC, the CHICAGO JUSTICE crew should be especially excited. On the Sunday of their premiere week, JUSTICE only saw a mild dip in viewership. Thanks to a strong lead in by Steve Harvey and his LITTLE BIG SHOTS, JUSTICE captured 7.28 million viewers and a 1.4 rating. It had the largest audience of any other major network show in that 8PM timeslot. Finally, the week’s third JUSTICE episode that aired on Tuesday, March 7th followed the supremely popular This Is Us and drew 6.07 million viewers and a 1.3 rating. While there is the expected decline in viewers from the premiere, JUSTICE still consistently won its timeslot. The show returns to its normal time on Sunday night and after this first week, JUSTICE should continue to pull promising numbers.
Critically, the premiere of JUSTICE was met with mild criticism and many obvious comparisons to Dick Wolf’s old flame, LAW AND ORDER. The general consensus seems to be that JUSTICE isn’t blazing any new trails but does the old courtroom procedural proud. In reference to the premiere, Variety said, “CHICAGO JUSTICE is not going to change our notion of courtroom dramas, but for what it is, it’s solid, satisfying stuff.” Additionally, the Chicago Tribune calls JUSTICE, “A sturdy, good-looking, somewhat formulaic drama.” As for a broad rating, Rotten Tomatoes currently gives JUSTICE 63% freshness. If the show’s mission is to instantly assimilate into the already established “Chicago” universe, all this press should be both encouraging and expected.
Courtroom dramas are such a pillar of network TV that it’s high time NBC’s newest mega-franchise gets in on the game. In fact, the only other example of a four-show franchise was back in the 2004/2005 season with four separate LAW & ORDER's. If this precedent is any indication, Dick Wolf knows exactly what he’s doing. As the dust settles in the coming weeks, JUSTICE will ease into its routine and we’ll get a better sense of its great role in the “Chicago” franchise. For now, this debut week saw three separate instances of solid numbers and this courtroom drama’s future looks bright.