Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

Dick Wolf made a rare appearance during NBC‘s TCA presentation this morning at the Beverly Hilton to trot out Wolf Films’ first non-Law & Order-branded series in six years, the new firefighter drama Chicago Fire. He assured critics that the show isn’t anything close to his usual procedural but proved too fascinating a subject to resist. “There are very few franchises or areas that give you the opportunity to really explore character,” Wolf, flanked by his cast, said. “It’s not fire of the week. It’s a character study about people who do things that you can’t pay people to do. You can’t pay people to run into burning buildings. So it is a canvas for good writing. And writing that you haven’t seen for a while on network television. It is a big, full broadcast show with multi characters and multi storylines going. And the writers room could be put in a book about screenwriting.” Wolf insisted the show is designed in the same tone as what he called NBC “platinum dramas” from the past like ER, Hill Street Blues — and Law & Order. “It’s hopefully in the tradition of these shows that have become, for better of for worse, iconic,” Wolf added. “These shows are never written down to the audience. It all goes back to the writing. There’s never been a good show with bad writing, and there’s few bad shows with good writing. Quality does out…The secret of success on television is writing. That’s it.”

One questioner wondered how similar Chicago Fire might be to the long-running FX firefighter drama Rescue Me, imagining that all shows about firefighters must be cut from the same cloth. “You know, I was an admirer of the show, and a friend of Denis (Leary),” Wolf said. “If you watch our pilot, you would agree that nobody is talking to ghosts, that there is a totally different projection of what this show is. Rescue Me was a brave show but an internal vision. This is really an internal and external vision.” He added that Chicago Fire is an ensemble rather than the single lead that was Rescue Me. “You know, nobody would question, ‘Oh, you’re doing another cop show?’ Fire shows are underrepresented, but first responders are of continuing interest to me, and they are the people who protect you when you sleep.” Might this turn into a multi-city franchise like, say, CSI, with New York Fire, Los Angeles Fire, Miami Fire? Whoa whoa slow down, Wolf cautioned. “I just want to get this one a back-nine and hopefully settle in for a nice long run. Especially with a first-year show like this, you aren’t thinking of the future, you’re thinking about survival.”

(Photo: Getty Images)