This is All I Plan to Say About “Chicagoland”

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

It’s over.

Now, I’ll find something more productive to do on Thursday nights, rather than editorialize over the eight-part CNN “documentary” called “Chicagoland.”

When the first installment was aired in March, I shared these thoughts. Now that the series is over, I’m not pleased by the portrayal given to my city, and I’m in pretty good company.

chicagoland.twoReports I’ve read in the local media were not kind to the producers of this ambitious project.  And, this recent extensive piece in the Chicago Tribune offers some fascinating insight on the making of “Chicagoland,” charging that many scenes were staged.  What’s more, the report details the consulting services provided by a prominent Chicago public affairs to the production team.

But here’s what stung my sensitivities:

The Myopic Perspective. The name of the production, at least to me, inferred that “Chicagoland” would shine light on a broad range of topics and subjects, people and places — enough to provide an accurate, realistic perspective of Chicago and its environs in 2013, when the bulk of the filming took place.  After all, this tale spanned eight hours (minus commercials). Why did the producers virtually ignore the business community, the vital role played by transportation, the arts community, the suburbs for crying out loud!

Instead, we were subjected to scene-after-scene featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Fenger High School Principal Elizabeth Dozier, punctuated with footage showing the aftermath of violence, followed by comments from Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy.  And, as illustrated in the graphic above, these three people were the stars of the show.

The Gratuitous Cameos.  Bluesman Buddy Guy. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley. World-renowned chef Grant Achatz.  Conductor Riccardo Muti. These famous Chicagoans all got some face time during the series; but their time on camera really didn’t advance any story lines.

Why didn’t the producers convince a long-standing business person to share his or her perspectives? Or a leader from one of our institutions of higher learning?  We have a few good ones, you know.

The Lack of Anything New. Read the news reports.  Chicago has violence, and it’s gut wrenching, horrifying and and seemingly out of control in some neighborhoods.  It’s destroying the very fabric of what once were sound, stable communities.

So, did we need a mini-series disguised as objective film making to tell us and the rest of the world that people are routinely being shot and killed?  I say no.

One more thing: Less famous Chicagoans — people like me — also have insight on where the city’s been and can offer projections on where it’s going.   And, to their credit, the producers did feature some common folk.

But not enough.

Perhaps the next time a crew from California comes to town, they’ll talk to more of us.

 

 

 

 

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