Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What You Should Be Watching: Rescue Me

Since MOL Jr. asked for it here's a synopsis of the great show "Rescue Me." I've been little hesitant that I won't be able to do the show justice, but here we go anyway. Also, for you Tivo people, who wait five months to watch episodes, there are some spoilers in here. Yes, I'm talking to you Brian.

The show is created by Denis Leary and Peter Tolan. Both were responsible for the short lived but excellent comedy "The Job." It recently was released on DVD and I seriously recommend picking that bad boy up. The same sense of humor carries over to this show. Leary plays Tommy Gavin the hot shot fireman of Ladder 62 in NYC. He is a great firefighter who is admired by his fellow fireman. The problem is that as good as he is at being a firefighter he's just as bad at being a father and husband.

Season One, began with Tommy separated from his wife. Even though he's saved numerous lives, he's haunted by those that he couldn't save. He's also haunted by best friend and cousin who died in 9/11. Firefighters still dealing with the impact of 9/11 is an underlying theme that runs through the series from the loss of family, brothers, and fellow firefighters to their taking advantage of the public adoration to them dealing with the money being made off the tragedy. Season one is basically these "heroes" falling. Tommy Gavin uses alcohol, prescription drugs, and sex to hide from and avoid his fears and troubles. In the end of the season he's left with his ex-wife running off with the kids. He's transferred out of Ladder 62 after nearly getting his friend killed in a fire. And he gets his cousin's widow pregnant. Tommy doesn't just ruin his life, but all those who he comes in contact with. Can you blame the wife for running? Now all this seems very soap operaish and to an extent it is. But it is all done with great dialogue and spot on performances. All the drama is well balanced with humor. Often the two come together in the same scene.

Season two has Tommy Gavin seeking redemption. He tries to get his kids back. He works his way back into Ladder 62. He joins AA. But because Tommy is Tommy he doesn't always do it the right way. He kidnaps his kids. He connives his way back into Ladder 62. The only reason he's in AA is because he'll lose his job if he doesn't. Recently, even he and his ex-wife have gotten back together. Of course it's not out true love, but because she's on happy pills, and he's been bogarting them when she's not looking. Things have been going well but you get the sense that it will crumble. Even though he's trying to deal with the problems, the temporary solutions are only masking the real trouble in Tommy.

It's not all about Tommy though. Each of the firemen at Ladder 62 have their troubles and laughs. There's Kenny the awful poetry writing veteran firefighter who left his wife for another woman. The other woman though was only seeing him because she has a fetish for unavailable men. Secondly, there's Franco the womanizing firefighter who now has a daughter to take care of. His womanizing also comes back to haunt him when he falls in love with Laura. Laura is the new transfer. She struggles with not only being the new guy but the new girl. Mike is the probationary firefighter. He's a naive kid who is hazed by the other firefighters, but tries to hold on to his heart of gold. Sean is the moron that walks through life with quite a dim light bulb. Finally, there is Chief Reilly. While trying to keep Ladder 62 together, he must also watch after his wife with Alzheimer's. His wife's illness also forces him into a confrontation with his gay son. Rounding things out is Tommy's cousin's wife. Tommy has become the replacement for her dead husband. She's gone off the deep end now that she has lost her baby, and now Tommy wants nothing to do with her.

It should also be noted the Catholic theology that is in the show. When things turn bad, Tommy often goes to church to find answers. He often though doesn't find them. Season one, he lit votive candles to temporarily deal with the ghosts that haunt him. In season two, Jesus literally comes down from the cross to give Tommy guidance. Not that he listens. Season two has flushed out even more of the struggles Tommy has with faith.

I realize I've made this show seem like a constant down note, but it really isn't. This show is also very funny. It is simply a well written show that examines the human struggles and laughs that these heroes live through. Denis Leary has friends and family that are firefighters and the show seems to get it right. Season one came out recently on DVD, so I really suggest starting with those. If you are someone who doesn't mind catching up later, then dive on in. There are four eps left to this season. I'm pretty sure this is when the shit is going to hit the fan.


bobby said...

I just Netflixed Rescue Me. So what's this I read about Denis Leary lifting a big chunk of his stand up from dead comedian Bill Hicks? Have you compared/contrasted, Brad?

MOL Junior said...

i'm gonna rent it....then maybe jump on board when season 3 starts.

Bradford said...

I've heard about Leary lifting from Hicks as well. I'm not familiar enough with either of their stand-up to compare and constrast. I know Dice Clay lifted from Hicks as well. All three have the similar angry smoking non-PC act, but I don't know how similar the jokes are. My man crush on Leary actually began on "Remote Control."