Our Top 10 list of the best TV shows set in Chicago

TV

As we say goodbye to our favorite heroes from One Chicago for the summer, it’s fun to look back on all the amazing TV shows set in the Windy City over the years.

Chicago has been a production powerhouse for decades and has given us some of the best movies and TV shows that were either set or filmed in Chicago.

This is our top ten list of the best TV shows set in Chicago:


#10 Married With Children  

Married With Children 1987–1997
Married with Children was literally one of the first shows ever aired on FOX, occupying a spot in its original Sunday night prime-time lineup. When FOX was a brand new network they seemed to be the “edgy” alternative to the already existing networks we had to choose from at the time, and Married With Children was FOX’s counterpoint to all the sugary, sweet, happy, wholesome family sitcoms currently occupying the airwaves. Although the show does take place in Chicago, none of the episodes were actually filmed there. The majority of episodes were filmed in Los Angeles, California. The exterior of the Bundy residence depicted in the beginning credits and in several episodes is a real house located in a residential suburb in Deerfield, Illinois, 25 miles north of Chicago. The Bundy family members were played by Ed O’Neill as Al Bundy, Katey Sagal as Peggy Bundy, Christina Applegate as Kelly Bundy, and David Faustino as Bud Bundy.


#9 The Bob Newhart Show

The Bob Newhart Show 1972–1978
This TV classic has Bob Newhart playing Bob Hartley, a Chicago psychologist living with wife Emily in a highrise. Bob is forced to deal with crazy patients, his wife and their friends. The show is often cited by comics as an inspiration, and traces of its influence can be seen in contemporary sitcoms, like Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. The show was filmed at Stage 17, CBS Studio Center but Bob’s office building was at 430 N. Michigan Avenue and we know, for sure, that the Hartley’s apartment building was The Thorndale located at 5901 N. Sheridan Avenue in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.


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#8 Family Matters

Family Matters 1989–1998
Family Matters is the second-longest-running live action U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast, behind only The Jeffersons and revolves around the Winslow family, a middle-class African-American family living in Chicago. Family Matters is a spin-off of another notable show which also takes place in Chicago, Perfect Strangers. Jo Marie Payton played Harriette Winslow, the elevator operator at a newspaper where Larry Appleton and Balki Bartokomous (Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot from Perfect Strangers) also worked. Reginald Vel Johnson would make cameos on Perfect Strangers as Harriette’s husband Carl Winslow, a Chicago police officer. ABC and the producers loved the character Harriette for her great morale and quick-witted humor and decided to create a show that would focus on her and her family, husband Carl, son Eddie, elder daughter Laura, and younger daughter Judy. The show originated on ABC from September 22, 1989 to May 9, 1997, before moving to CBS from September 19, 1997 to July 17, 1998. Located at 1516 W. Wrightwood, is the house where the fictional Winslow family lived and where one of the most famous characters of our lifetime, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), frequently visited, however the house was demolished a few years ago. Aside from some exterior shots, the show was filmed in front of a live studio audience in Los Angeles, California. 


#7 Chicago Hope

Chicago Hope 1994–2000
7 time Primetime Emmy Award winning Chicago Hope starred Mandy Patinkin as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, a hot-shot surgeon with emotional issues stemming from the psychiatric condition of his wife (played by Kim Greist), who drowned their infant son. Memorable cast members include Hector Elizondo as Dr. Phillip Watters, Christine Lahti as Dr. Kathryn Austin, Mark Harmon as Dr. Jack McNeil, Peter MacNicol as Alan Birch, Eric Stoltz as Dr. Robert Yeats, and Barbara Hershey as Dr. Francesca Alberghetti, just to name a few. Another medical drama on our list, ER was also on TV on another network at the time, and the two Chicago-based hospital dramas went “head to head” in their primetime 10 p.m. Thursday night slot. ER was the victor. Despite receiving critical acclaim, Chicago Hope was shifted to 9 p.m. Thursdays, and ultimately to Monday nights in 1995 in a bid for higher ratings, while ER remained in its time slot. Some characters had crossovers on Picket Fences, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Early Edition. With the exception of some infrequent on-location exterior scenes, the vast majority of Chicago Hope was filmed on sound stages at the studios of Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, located in the Century City area of Los Angeles.


#6 Hill Street Blues

Hill Street Blues 1981–1987
Everyone over a certain age recognizes the opening music for the iconic cop drama, Hill Street Blues, which paved the way for so many more cop dramas over the years. While this groundbreaking cop show went out of its way to never have any character mention the city in which it took place, and the official story was that it was an amalgam of Chicago, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, Hill Street Blues used the century-old Maxwell Street CPD station, located at 943 West Maxwell Street for establishing shots, its squad cars matched Chicago Police markings down to the city flag on the rear fenders, and it gave Second City alum Betty Thomas a role that netted her seven consecutive Emmy nominations for best supporting actress in a drama, it’s safe to say Hill Street Blues is, in fact, a Chicago show. Another cop drama on our list, one of One Chicago’s triad, Chicago P.D. use exterior shots of the same 1888 police station for District 21. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is currently the headquarters of the University of Illinois at Chicago police department. 


#5 Good Times

Good Times 1974–1979
This sitcom set in the Chicago housing projects shone a light on the reality of many who were struggling to get by. But at the heart of the show was the strong bond shared by the Evans family. Episodes showed how the family members stuck by each other in the face of unemployment, crime, racial bigotry and loss. Esther Rolle starred as matriarch Florida Evans, John Amos was her hard-working husband James, and Ja’Net DuBois played their feisty neighbor Willona Woods. Over time, stories shifted focus to their kids: loveable goofball J.J. (Jimmie Walker), responsible Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis), and Michael (Ralph Carter), the socially conscious youngest. Created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans and developed by executive producer Norman Lear, it was television’s first African American two-parent family sitcom. Although the show was set in inner-city Chicago, it was actually produced in Los Angeles.


#4 The Good Wife

The Good Wife 2009–2016
The Good Wife is a drama starring Emmy Award winner Julianna Margulies, whom we all know and love as Carol Hathaway on another Chicago show, ER. She took home 2 Primetime Emmy Awards for her role as a wife and mother who must assume full responsibility for her family and re-enter the workforce after her husband’s very public sex and political corruption scandal lands him in jail. The incredibly talented and acclaimed cast includes the likes of Matt Czuchry, Christine Baranski, Archie Panjabi, Alan Cumming, Josh Charles, and Chris Noth. The series was filmed in NY, but takes place in Chicago. The Good Wife was such a great show that it inspired a spinoff titled The Good Fight, centered around Baranski’s character Diane Lockhart which aired 4 seasons from 2017-2020. 


#3 Shameless

Shameless 2011–2021
Showtime’s longest running series, Shameless is the American adaptation of a British series of the same name. The Dramedy features an ensemble cast anchored by Academy Award nominee William H. Macy, who earned 5 Primetime Emmy awards and 2 Golden Globes for his performance as Frank Gallagher, a single father of a large family. The rest of the Gallaghers include “Lip” (Jeremy Allen White), Debbie (Emma Kenny), Carl (Ethan Cutkosy), and the Sibling who had to step up and be a responsible parent, Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum) who left Shameless in the Season 9 finale. In April of 2021, after 11 years, Shameless came to an end.  The Majority of the show was filmed at the WB lot in Burbank, California, however production visited Chicago several times a year to film the exterior shots and the now famous Gallagher house. 


#2 ER

ER 1994–2009
ER was on the air so long that a lot of viewers who committed to the 15 year run might feel it was one of their longest relationships. The show was a juggernaut in the genre and paved the way for other Chicago based medical dramas, as well as medical dramas based in other cities. George Clooney had several roles prior to ER, but Dr. Doug Ross definitely skyrocketed him into stardom. The show can boast incredible casting with talents such as (and not limited to) Noah Wyle, Laura Innes, Maura Tierney, Goran Visnjic, Anthony Edwards, Alex Kingston, Mekhi Phifer, Parminder Nagra, Linda Cardellini, Scott Grimes, and Ming-Na Wen. Eriq La Salle, who went on to direct Chicago based shows such as Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, and Chicago Justice, played Peter Benton in 171 episodes. Another notable cast member was Julianna Margulies, who won a Golden Globe for her performance in another Chicago based TV show on our list, The Good Wife in 2010, and she played Carol Hathaway for 135 episodes on ER. The medical drama was shot mostly at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California, but visited Chicago several times a year to film exterior shots. 


#1 One Chicago franchise shows (Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med) 2012–

One Chicago franchise 2012-
It simply wouldn’t be fair to split these three into their own shows for this list, or they would take up three whole slots themselves. For the sake of argument, we rank Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. as tied for the first place spot. These three shows dominate Wednesday nights and fill the entire NBC primetime lineup for the night. Each show boasts riveting storytelling through impeccable casting. One Chicago merges Emmy Award-winning Executive Producer Dick Wolf’s hit dramas Chicago Med,  Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. to create one big, happy Chicago home. Unlike most shows on this list, One Chicago films all over the city, as well as on stages at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, the largest independent studio outside of Los Angeles.


Honorable Mentions
It was really challenging to narrow this list to just 10 when there are so many awesome Chicago based TV shows to choose from. We compiled a great list, but it wouldn’t be complete without at least mentioning the following shows:

Sense 8  2015–2018
It would be a travesty to not mention the Netflix original show, Sense 8 on this list. The show featured a whopping eight locations as viewers get to know the characters and how they relate to each other. Chicago was one of those cities. As Chicago natives, the Wachowski siblings made sure the city was well represented among the many global location shoots in the first season of their big-budget sci-fi. 

Punky Brewster 1984-1988
For some reason, the rags to riches story of Little Orphan Annie, inspired a whole slew of television shows featuring orphans from about 1977 to the early 90s and Punky Brewster was one of those shows. Punky Brewster is a child who has been abandoned by her mother at a supermarket. Taken in by crusty Chicago photographer Henry Warnimont, Punky and her dog, Brandon, teach Henry how to lighten up. Even though the show was notably set in the Windy City, it was almost exclusively filmed in Los Angeles, aside from a few shots of Henry and Punky at Wrigley Field. 

Jack & Mike 1986-1987
Filmed entirely in Chicago, the story revolve around Jackie, a newspaper columnist for a Chicago newspaper, and Mike, a restaurant owner, live a fast paced life and their careers often interfere in their plans. 

Lady Blue 1985-1986
And finally how could we not mention Lady Blue, filmed entirely in Chicago, Jamie Rose as Katy Mahoney patrols the grittier streets of Chicago, dispatching the seamier elements before reporting to her boss Terry McNichol played by Danny Aiello.

This short-lived series was greeted with a firestorm of complaints about violence (18 characters died in the pilot alone!) The show was more of a comic book than a serious police procedural.

Stuntman, Rick LeFevour had his hands full with the wacky stunts on this series.


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Joia_Davida_Shootin_the_shit

Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.

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