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What's The Correct Order In Which To Watch The One Chicago Shows?

In a world of cinematic universes and ever-expanding franchises, it can be challenging to keep up to date with the latest, trending media projects and their convoluted timelines. While many think of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the "Star Wars" franchise when it comes to figuring out timelines and viewing orders, it's easy to forget that television has its fair share of multifaceted projects. The "One Chicago" franchise is no different. The procedural media franchise continues to produce new episodes and create compelling characters and storylines that tackle injustices in Chicago. Co-created by Dick Wolf, the brainchild behind NBC's "Law & Order" franchise, "One Chicago" kicked off in 2012 and has been going strong for a decade, adding a variety of shows to its roster.

How has the behemoth of a franchise ruled airwaves for so long? Speaking with reporters at a press event (via Tell-Tale TV), Wolf noted how the shows succeed because of the cast, labeling them a big family. The creator continued, saying "[the shows] work perfectly together. The shows are really good shows. Good writing, and it's always the writing."

It can seem like a Herculean task to watch each series, primarily because of the many crossovers within the "Chicago" franchise and "Law & Order," among others. Luckily, if you want to dive into Wolf's Chicago epic, there's a viewing order that'll get you up to speed quickly.

Watch the One Chicago shows in viewing order, except for crossover episodes

If you're interested in becoming a "One Chicago" purist, the best way to immerse yourself in Dick Wolf's franchise is to watch the shows in chronological order. This means starting your journey with "Chicago Fire," then "Chicago P.D.," and finally "Chicago Med" — with one caveat that we'll explain shortly.

The franchise first kicked off with "Chicago Fire," which serves as the anchor for almost every subsequent series. The series focuses on the trials and tribulations of Firehouse 51 of the Chicago Fire Department. As firefighters, they naturally come across various other public service workers, such as the police. "Chicago Fire" had its first backdoor pilot in the form of Season 1, Episode 23, titled "Let Her Go," which served as an intro for "Chicago P.D. To get the full "Chicago Med" backstory, fans will have to watch Season 3, Episode 19 of "Chicago Fire,” titled "I Am the Apocalypse," which introduced viewers to the doctors of the "One Chicago" world.

Watch every backdoor pilot from "Chicago Fire," then continue watching each show until you reach the crossovers. Since the franchise debuted, there have been several crossovers. It can be tricky watching the crossovers, and series creator Wolf also admits that making them can be a pain. "A lot of the time — nobody likes making the crossovers. It's horrible. They shoot Saturdays; it's very complicated, and there's always a lot more re-shooting," the hotshot creator told reporters during a conference (via CinemaBlend).

How to watch every One Chicago crossover

The "One Chicago" crossover episodes are the heart of the franchise and manage to expand the world considerably. To get the most out of their viewing experience, fans should plan ahead and track each show, as well as its respective crossover episode so they can watch them chronologically. Watching crossover episodes out of order will be like watching a three-hour-long non-sequitur.

It should be noted that there are crossovers with other shows outside of the core "One Chicago" franchise. To get the complete story, audiences will have to pay attention to crossovers with "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Law & Order," and "FBI," the latter of which airs on CBS — not NBC, the home of the "Law & Order" and "One Chicago" franchises.

When it comes to the shows outside of the "Chicago" network, fans can find their favorite characters occasionally popping up on "FBI" or the "Law & Order" shows. While those crossovers aren't mandatory by any means, they can help expand the world of Chicago and are a must for purists. Wolf has, however, teased a large (and unprecedented) crossover between the "Law & Order," "One Chicago," and "FBI" franchises (via Variety).

For now, pay strict attention to the "One Chicago" crossovers and watch them in viewing order to get the full story. When it comes to crossovers and guest appearances with shows outside the "Chicago" network, feel free to skip or watch them, though do note that you might feel lost if you aren't aware of the characters in a show such as "Law & Order."

Wait, what about Chicago Justice?

Ah yes, the elephant in the "One Chicago" room. After the success of "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago P.D.," Wolf and company decided to expand the universe by tackling the Windy City's courtrooms. A backdoor pilot for "Chicago Justice" was presented in the form of Season 3, Episode 21 of "Chicago P.D.," aptly titled "Justice." The law procedural was picked up by NBC and its debut episode functioned as a piece of the puzzle in a three-part crossover with "Fire" and "P.D."

The "Chicago Justice" cast would later pop up on "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: SVU." Despite decent ratings, "Justice" was ultimately canceled. While speaking with Deadline, NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt discussed how canning the series was a matter of real estate, saying "Just looking at how many of these Chicago shows we can sustain, we thought they are all good but it seemed like 'Justice' was the most conventional, it was the closest to a 'Law & Order' show, so we thought maybe this is the one we should sacrifice." Greenblatt confirmed that the cancellation wasn't indicative of the show's quality but rather "it was really because a lot of other factors."

When it comes to "Chicago Justice," it's a matter of completionism for viewers. In the same vein, audiences can choose which "One Chicago" shows to watch and ignore the crossovers. After all, they're only a tiny part of what makes the expansive saga so great.