"It's playoff time again in this sports-loving city," says narrator/co-writer Mark Konkol at the beginning of episode two of the eight-part CNN series "Chicagoland."
And though you will see all sorts of whooping-hollering-shot-drinking euphoria during clips from the Blackhawks run toward the 2013 Stanley Cup, you will also see disturbing images that address another, if unspoken, part of Chicago last year: It is also murder time again in this violence-plagued city.
The joyous Blackhawks run to the cup, culminating in that sun-splashed Grant Park party, takes center stage Thursday night (and in repeats). But it shares that stage with the ongoing story of school closings, gangs and guns.
Fenger High School Principal Liz Dozier is back (and likely to remain a fixture throughout the series), marching for peace and fighting against budget cuts. (In overlapping storylines, Dozier is seen celebrating the Hawks with restaurant/nightclub impresario Billy Dec.)
Of course, Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to have a prominent role here. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy takes a back seat in this hour as CPD Commander Leo Schmitz — a star is born No. 3 — travels through gang-ravaged Englewood, commenting, "Nothing will shock you after awhile."
You will hear that the mayor is a "sports nut," an element of his character displayed in part by his championing the controversial, expensive construction of a new arena for DePaul University.
You will also learn that he is a "big music fan" and watch him schmoozing with some music folk because, courtesy of Konkol again, "(He) hopes to use the blues to promote the city."
Balancing these ready-for-re-election-campaign-commercial shots is, again, 9-year-old Asean Johnson, the third-grade activist, tears streaming down his face as he speaks to the Chicago Public Schools board in an effort to forestall the closing of public schools, saying, "Go to our mayor and tell him to quit his job"; Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, thoughtfully impassioned; and CTU organizer Joseph McDermott asking a very valid question: "I wonder if there's anybody in (Emanuel's) social circle who sends their kids to Chicago public schools?" We do not get an answer.
Instead we get the mayor giving a school tour to the CEO of Google, warmly greeting President Barack Obama at the airport, hugging people at an anti-violence rally and, when discussing fundraising, saying, "Money leads to money."
But there is also an open-casket funeral, and older gang members chillingly recalling the violence of their youth. A Fenger senior, Lee McCullom, has his graduation, his prom and his soon-off-to-college excitement all shadowed by the shooting death of a friend, his third friend to be cut down in the first six months of 2013.
So, after two hours, there begin to emerge questions you hope the series will eventually answer, and fears about a summer that we all know was filled with murder. There will be no more championships to celebrate, and new stories will emerge. So far the images are vivid and the camera work spectacular. The city is alive on-screen, even as some of its citizens no longer are.
Rick Kogan will review all eight parts of "Chicagoland," Thursdays in A+E
9 p.m. Thursday; 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday; 9 p.m. and midnight Sunday; 3 a.m. Monday; CNNCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun