Chicago Hope

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Chicago Hope TV Poster Image
It's no ER, but doc drama still entertains.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Most of the characters are humanly flawed and struggle through difficulties in their personal as well as professional lives. Some are far more upstanding than others (one is a recovering gambling addict; a few often joke at their patients' expense). Emotionally charged issues like racism, sexism, and medical ethics are explored as part of the show's drama. The multicultural cast includes African-American and Asian-American characters and some strong female characters.


Surgical scenes and injuries related to shootings, stabbings, and vehicle wrecks can be bloody, but cameras usually pan past them rather than linger for long.


Some bedroom scenes show couples kissing and rolling around under the sheets, but there's no nudity beyond a shirtless man. In the hospital, issues sometimes touch on sex-related matters (sexuality, harassment, teen pregnancy, etc.).


Words like "hell," "ass," "bitch," and "damn" are common.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters occasionally smoke or drink, but there's often a repercussion (a DUI charge, lung cancer) for their actions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this medical drama has mature themes, strong language, and sometimes-graphic footage. The hospital setting means that death and terminal illness are commonplace, and life-threatening injuries from (among other things) shootings and stabbings are shown -- though usually quickly and from a distance. Content often delves into the characters' love affairs, emotional instability, and addictions. Some doctors come across as insensitive when they're out of patients' earshot (making bets on when one will die, for instance). Racism, sexism, homosexuality, and medical ethics are all dealt with.

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What's the story?

CHICAGO HOPE follows the tumultuous ups and downs in the personal and professional lives of the medical staff of a private charity hospital in the Windy City. Created by David E. Kelley (Boston Legal), the critically acclaimed series ran for six seasons and went through many cast changes during its run. Early episodes starred Mandy Patinkin as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon who struggled with his wife's mental incapacity; Hector Elizondo as Dr. Phillip Watters, whose personal life was also full of tragedy; and Adam Arkin as neurosurgeon Dr. Aaron Shutt, while later seasons featured new characters like recovering gambling addict Dr. Jack McNeil (Mark Harmon), straight-talking Dr. Billy Kronk (Peter Berg), charitable Dr. Dennis Hancock (Vondie Curtis-Hall), and heart surgeon Dr. Kate Austin (Christine Lahti). Each episode follows a handful of cases that raise tricky ethical questions for the doctors and nurses who treat them. And paralleling the medical drama are the soap opera-like storylines focusing on the cast's chaotic personal lives, which include homosexuality, addiction, family tragedy, and a virtual gridlock of love triangles.

Is it any good?

While it's not as gripping as its better-known counterpart, ER, Chicago Hope's strong character-based drama makes it fairly compelling -- though its mature content and occasional graphic trauma make it iffy for young teens.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the enduring popularity of medical dramas. What's the appeal? Do you think real-life hospitals and doctors deal with this level of trauma and drama on a regular basis? How are today's medical dramas similar to and different from this one? Families can also discuss emotional hardships. What challenges do the characters on the show have to cope with? How do they respond? Who did they turn to for support or guidance? What are some of the most difficult situations you've been through? Did you face it alone? How did you respond? Families can also identify the ethical questions raised in each episode and discuss their feelings about them. Did you agree with how the characters resolved their quandary? How would you have handled it?

TV details

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