Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rescue Me Seasons 1-5 Review

NOTE: I am going to attempt to review a television show for the first time ever. Having never done this, in addition to not being a huge TV person and having no expertise in the areas of television production, acting, etc, I am not going to be writing a technical review, nor will i be writing a terrible deep one. Hopefully it isn't too lacking and you can glean a few things from it. Let me know how I did, if you're so inclined. If you do give the show a shot after reading this, please, post back and tell me how it went, positive or negative. Just don't sue me ;)

Okay, Rescue Me review:

My best friend (Claudio) recommended to me that I give Rescue me a try. I was hesitant to do so, based on my prior dislike of Denis Leary, and also on the fact that I am hesitant to bother with television, as most of it is crap in my view. There are select few TV shows which have really hooked me over the years (a few: The Sopranos, OZ, In Treatment, Spartacus, South Park), and I'm just not a huge TV fan, so I think it took me somewhere between 3-6 months to finally relent and give the show a try.

I am so glad I did.

The show is now in my all time favourite list. If you're not familiar with it, it's basically about firefighters struggling with their inner demons in a post 9/11 New York City. Ladder 62 is the crew that the show centres on, and it features, among others, Denis Leary as Tommy Gavin, the main character, whom has, among other things, a drinking problem, a drug problem (at times), a marriage that has fallen apart, and survivor's guilt which resulted from his cousin's (another firefighter) death on 9/11.

The show starts off as somewhat of an ensemble show, although the focus starts to narrow as the seasons wear on. It mainly consists of watching these firefighters deal with their issues, grief, guilt, anger, substance abuse and relationship problems, with some on the job focus as well (a fire scene or two is present in most, but not all, episodes).

The show also features a healthy amount of comedy, which usually consists of antic between the “brothers” in the firehouse, much of it centring around practical jokes and conversations about things like discoloured penises and sexual orientation. Another source of laughs is Tommy's absolute inability to tell the truth with any consistency, and watching him stumble trying to lie his way out of the myriad of situations he finds himself on, often due to either his drinking problem or his rampant infidelity (or both).

The characters other than Tommy Gavin are mostly fellow firefighters, his wife Janet, and his myriad of mistresses, including a long term one who also doubles as his biggest critic, apart from his Janet. Speaking of his Janet, she at first appears to be the utter antithesis of Tommy, but then, as the show moves forward, you come to realize that she is no better, and in some ways is much worse, although she acts as though this is not so, and is adept at playing the victim role and projecting onto Tommy her personal demons. The two of them and their never ending struggles provide a main thread of the story, and, luckily, their every changing relationship and dynamic works well, as it needed to in order to maintain viewer interest.

The other firefighters alluded to earlier include, among others, his best friend Kenneth Shea (who they refer to as Lou), a stocky middle aged firefighter with a good heart and nice disposition who has some inner turmoil he deals with in ways he'd just as soon not have the guys know about; Franco Rivera, the hunky Puerto Rican player, Sean Garrity, the affable and somewhat dumb goof, Mike Silletti, the 'probie' (probationary firefighter); also a bit dumb and struggling with his sexuality, and later addition, Bart (Shawn), the house's first black firefighter and someone whom becomes tied to Tommy in a personal way as the series progresses.

Filling out the cast are Tommy and Janet's four children (Colleen, Connor, Kate and the baby), his brother Johnny, the ghost of his deceased firefighter cousin Jimmy (who he sees and converses with on a regular basis), Jimmy's widow, Sheila, his cousin Mick, a priest and his AA sponsor, Tommy's uncle Ted, his father, sister Maggie, and a few other family members. There are also characters who come and go, many of whom end up being love interests/flings for the guys (particularly Tommy and Franco).

As I alluded to earlier, Tommy regularly converses with his deceased cousin Jimmy, as well as a few other ghosts as the series progresses. This, in part at least, causes Tommy to wonder about the possibility of an afterlife, as well as the existence (or non) of a god. Raised Catholic, he struggles with belief throughout the series, seeming to alternate between belief, nonbelief, and contempt, depending on events. Religion is also an area of note for a few other characters in the show. The treatment of religion in the show seems to be pretty accurate, and religion provides the backdrop for a few of the more memorable scenes in the series, involving Tommy and his priest cousin, but I won't give anything away here.

As an atheist, I did not find the religious aspect to be at all annoying, as it is not overly prominent, and there is certainly no proselytizing (nor would you expect there to be, seeing as how Leary, the main character, creator and writer, is an atheist). It merely shows that religion is a part of the characters' lives, and a prominent one at times (and not a consideration at all at others).

The fire scenes are actually the least gripping aspect of the show, in my view. They're wholly uninteresting, not very unpredictable, not all that exciting, and visually bland, as they are (of course) dark and smoky, and therefore they come with reduced visibility (understandable, certainly, but a bit annoying at times). They are not a prominent aspect of this show in the least, and I usually find myself slightly disappointed when that fire bell rings. I'd much rather them continue the conversation they were having, especially the really intense or funny ones (both of which there are a lot of).

The acting is almost uniformly great. The writing is mostly good, often great, occasionally magnificent, and sometimes poor/predictable/cliched/replete with plot holes. It's fairly consistent but sometimes gets lost and takes an episode or two to find its way. I can honestly say that I haven't truly hated any single episodes, and I have loved the majority of them. I have come to genuinely care about almost everyone on the show, and quite often I have come around from dislike to like, hate to love, even multiple times with the same character.

The show is an excellent mix of comedy and drama that deals with infidelity, substance abuse, imperfect parents and children, brotherhood, friendship, family, dysfunction, bravery, fear, cowardice, religion and the struggle with belief, lust, love, lies and lace. Not to mention discoloured penises and lesbians.

I highly recommend Rescue Me.

**** out of *****

Catch Rescue Me Tuesdays on F/X. Currently in Season 6.


  1. Sounds like a decent show. Although I'm not too fond of TV shows and like you have no expertise on the topic. I do watch a lot of TV shows on 4oD and Youtube but not proper TV.

    I'm surprised to hear about a show with such mature subject matter doing successfully. I'm not saying the public only like 'Friends' but you wouldn't expect a show with pretty serious topics to do well in comparison to other shows.

  2. There have been many others, especially on HBO. They allow their shows to go all out, such as on The Sopranos, Dexter, etc


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