85 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2005
With the reality TV glut mercifully showing signs of abating, it looks like there could be a new flourishing of quality scripted TV, and FX's Rescue Me deserves to be at the forefront of any such charge. Much has been made of the complex, extended storylines incorporated by so many shows in the past decade or so (e.g., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, ER, etc. etc. etc.), and this one is no exception, but it still deserves credit for its boldness, realism, and skillful avoidance of predictability. Surprised as I was to realize it about halfway through the season, Rescue Me reminds me a great deal of a show I used to watch with my wife back when we were engaged, also known for its odd poignancy, its emphasis on bonding and complicated relationships, its bawdy set pieces, and its heavy use of New York City as an ancillary character. Yes, that's right, at bottom Rescue Me has a great deal in common with Sex in the City, except with a lot more fires and death.
It becomes apparent pretty quickly in the premiere episode of this show that it's not the politically correct post-9/11 tribue to firefighters that one might be given to expect. In the opening few minutes, we see Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin having the first of many lenghty coversations with his cousin and best friend Jimmy, which wouldn't be all that unusual if Jimmy hadn't been killed in the World Trade Center attacks. It's only about five minutes later that another firefighter complains about the decline in his level of action (only he uses a much more explicit word) as the memory of the attacks fades. As introductions go, it's a pretty appropriate one.
Things don't go too far uphill from there. Filled with realistic dialogue and compelling performances, Rescue Me strips away the layers of adulation that have surrounded firefighters since 9/11 and reveals them as what they are: people doing a job. Yes, they might be braver than most, but the firefighters depicted here are still flawed, multifaceted characters faced with all the recurring problems and bad habits of real people. This is intelligent, challenging stuff, and while it can get a bit sensationalistic, it's considerably more grounded in reality than, say, Nip/Tuck. At its best, it's a savagely funny, darkly moving testament to the chaotic tragicomedy that is our existence.
This first season is some of the most compulsively watchable television around, becoming as addictive as a crack habit as it careens from one compelling plot line to another, combining its delirious vulgarity with an almost total lack of romance. One of the show's underlying themes is the idea that people crazy enough to run into burning buildings for a living might not be entirely stable in their personal lives, and one of the most endearing qualities of Rescue Me is the way it manages to capture its characters at both their strongest and their most vulnerable. Even during the more emotionally charged plot threads-the fallout from Chief Riley's beating of a gay ex-firefighter; Lieutenant Shea's poetry writing; Franco's discovery that he has a five-year old daughter; the introduction of a woman into the house-Rescue Me exhibits a noble refusal to give in to sentiment. With few exceptions, the characters here don't have grand epiphanies or act in completely contradictory ways from episode to episode and they certainly don't always do the right thing; they're presented as is, with all the nagging inconsistencies associated with our species.
Leading the way is Leary as the protagonist Tommy, a walking contradiction whose dedication to his job and his family is matched by his anger, self-destructiveness, and guilt. Tommy talks to the ghosts of the people he's seen killed; cheats on his semi-estranged wife when he's not tormenting her yuppie boyfriend; drinks compulsively; and starts an ultra-illegal affair with the widow of the aforementioned Jimmy, and all along it's nearly impossible to stop watching him. With Leary clearly having fun snarling and shouting his way through the role, Tommy easily makes for one of the more compelling anti-heroes in TV history, especially when he begins his major downward spiral in the season's final few episodes. While Tommy's (and the show's) excesses can get a bit numbing after a while (do firefighters really score as much as these guys do, or talk about it as explicitly?), in the end it's all part of the fun. For those poor souls who can't afford HBO (this writer included), Rescue Me is about as daring and fascinating a show as you're likely to find on cable. Oh, and the Von Bondies' Come On, Come On makes for quite possibly the single best introductory song in TV history, having managed to make Rescue Me the one show whose opening credits I always make it a point to watch.
101 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2005
Denis Leary has been one of my favorite comedians since the Cindy Crawford-obsessed, rapid-fire riffs on MTV ages ago. Even though (on some level perhaps even because) the Bill Hicks Preservation Society as a whole has dedicated their lives to reminding anyone who will listen that Leary's entire career as a stand-up comedian was based on ripping off (if not actually doing) Hicks' act, Leary is still intriguing because the personae you see onstage (and in such recorded classic songs such as "@$$hole") is so completely different than the life the man actually leads. He's a devoted family man who spends a heckuva lot of time working with local charities, most famously the Cam Neely Foundation.
Which is the precise personality brought to this made-for-late-night basic cable series; what we have on the surface appears to be a heartfelt tribute to "New York's Bravest", the Fire Department of New York City. And in many ways it is, but in much the same way "Slap Shot" is to professional hockey or "North Dallas Forty" did for pro football. It's very much a locker room's view of things, most definitely a more honest portrayal of the occupation than you'd see in the more traditional "Emergency!" series or the big-screen actioner from Ron Howard "Backdraft".
The paradox of this series is that the profession is typically portrayed (properly so) as modern-day knights in shining armor, but the men who wear the armor as being frequently less than chivalrous in nature; indeed, there are elements of every single character in this show that are impossible to warm up to; Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin, whom I want very much to like, is one of the more dispicable characters ever portrayed in series TV. To say that he is complex is an understatement; he is a living, breathing contradiction, Leary's own life as a comedian/family man encapsulated here. It's a terrific portrayal of someone who has lost the way, with a fall either into the oblivion of madness or the damnation of utter darkness awaiting him; the longer you watch the show you just know that there is no way things are going to end well for him. You want them to; he's Denis Leary, he makes you laugh. But at the same time every time you want to get close he does something to drive you away and himself closer to the inevitable end that awaits.
And the thing is, every other character in this show is the same way. There's not a designated "heavy" character to foil the protagonists; in this show, EVERYONE is Frank Burns/Charles Winchester. No one is entirely (or even remotely) pure of heart, and if you're expecting a routine dose of heroism, you're in the wrong place. "Rescue Me" takes the viewer to a dark place, where light and reverence are rare commodities, and where reality is a brutal place where heroes are often revealed as being only human, and sometimes even less. The fact that the show is completely watchable and the fastest hour on TV these days speaks volumes of the talent of the producers and the actors. Despite everything, you still end up caring about these people and desperately want to see them stop their respective freefalls. Even though you know they can't/won't, you know you're going to tune in again next week. Great stuff.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2005
Having seen seven or eight of the Rescue Me epispodes on Cable's FX channel, in various orders, I was blown away by the gritty, comic, tragic stories linking the all too human dysfunctional lives of seven "crew" members of an upper Manhattan FDNY Ladder Company. Viewing all 13 episodes in chronological order yesterday in the recently released Season One DVD collection, in one sitting, was an experience I will not soon forget.
Leary's comedic and dramatic career has always been a seeming grab for the brass ring, with spotty commercial success. His last two efforts, the hilariously politically incorrect ABC mid season replacement series "The Job", and now, Rescue Me, put him in a very exclusive company of talent who can take a concept, and bring it to artistic life, and deliver a grand slam.
The opening scene of episode one, finds Leary's character, Tommy Gavin, trapped in his smoke filled bathroom at home while a fire rages outside the door. Poof. It is a dream. Jump Cut to Gavin addressing a graduating class of "Probies", fresh new firemen awaiting assignnment.
"Want to know how big my balls are? My balls are bigger than any of your two heads duct taped together" Informing them that the process of probation is not to making "heroes", but discovering cowards, (he refers to them as "Pussies") he brags "There ain't no medals on my chest".
Gavin then startlingly, and touchingly recounts to the new graduates the stories of four lost firemen that perished at Ground Zero on 9/11. The camera pans back to a shot, showing the probational firemen standing at attention in military formation, the trainees teacher commanding them to "SAY THANK YOU FIREFIGHTING CLASS!" as Leary salutes them with a middle finger. Climbing into his Ford Pickup, (fire engine red, of course), he is greeted by his dead cousin and best friend Jimmy Keefe, who thanks him for the touching eulogy, but counters by adding, "Those Probies wouldn't think you were such a tough guy if they knew you were talking to a dead guy, but......."
Leary reveals his character immediately , stumbling over words to answer his dead cousin, he looks over, to find him disappeared as fast as he appeared. What does one say to a nagging ghost? "A**hole!"
Over the next 13 episodes this documentary style shot series feeds us real life views of the ladder company's crew members takes on life, marriage, sex, homosexuality, honor, dating and family.
We are introduced to an endless stream of characters, insightfully portrayed. Adorable children, vengeful ex girlfriends, bookies, bartenders, crackheads, lecherous uncles, gamblers, horny widows, violent monkeys, defecating poodles, as well as the ghosts of dead fireman and deceased "10-45's", people that Tommy Gavin was unable to "grab" before their death, all spun into Gavin's "Secret Evil Plan" to regain the love of his soon to be ex wife, Janet.
This is not so much a review, but an open letter to Denis Leary, thanking him for the joy of allowing me to be enchanted by his dis-enchanted world. By seeing the world through his dysfunctional Irish American eyes, I was overwhelmed by a sense of nostalgia (literally "reliving the pain")of my own life, and am profoundly grateful for every laugh and smile this televised comedic, and dramatic work of genius brought to me.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2005
It is nearly inconceivable that Denis Leary has not been nominated for an emmy for this fantastic series. If you have missed out on it, please be sure to see it from the beginning or you will be lost. Great story line and acting, one of the best series on TV
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
After the sad demise of Denis Leary's The Job on ABC, the scathing comedian turned his sights on the lives of firefighters in Rescue Me. Created for Fox cable channel FX (the home of smash hits the Shield and Nip/Tuck), executive producer Leary stars as Tommy Flannigan, a firefighter overwrought with personal demons and guilt who's life slowly spins out of control because of his actions. His fellow firefighters have their own personal dilemmas, but the main focus of the show revolves around Tommy and what appears to be his road to self destruction. Leary is surprisingly good in the lead role, being better than anyone would expect from his film roles. The grittiness of Rescue Me is nothing new, considering this show would not be on FX were it not for the path the Shield made for it and other programs as well. Though it really offers nothing new on the perspective of firefighters and the lives they lead and the consequences of their profession, this is a great beginning of a new series which by the end of season one, leaves Tommy at a crossroads which will either lead him to redemption, or continue his road to self destruction.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2005
I have always been a fan of Denis Leary and his edgy material, ever since the film The Ref and his HBO specials, but I have to say this series exceded any prior expectations I had. This show is amazing! Great acting, great writing, great visual style, and amazingly great character development!
The series focuses on Tommy Gavin(Leary),a veteran firefighter living and working in post 9-11 New York. He simultaneously has to deal with his wife(separated) deciding to date a new man, his co-worker's exploits and how it affects his job, being constantly haunted by the ghosts of his fallen commerades, and to top it all off he closes himself off from his wife and his crew(his only friend is his "dead" cousin Jimmy), to make way for a return to alcoholism and a secret evil plan to win his family back by spying on their every move from his window that views their house directly accross the street from his.
I am a huge fan of the programming on the F/X Network. I love The Shield and Nip/Tuck, but I have to say that Rescue Me is the most consistent and satisfying program that has aired on the cable channel thus far. Every week you are allowed into a world of the average and ordinary guy and you truly see and feel how hard it can sometimes be to be the average and ordinary guy. This show manages to deal with issues like homosexuality, marital seperation, alzhiemers, and our own personal feelings towards our loved ones that have passed away, with such raw emotion thatyou not only feel for the characters, but you root for them to pull through it as well.
You feel the pain of these guys and fully relate to them as well, even the sarcastic and jaded Tommy. The dialogue betweenthe guys in the firehouse is so real and hysterical, it is some of the best written for scripted television.Plus, it has a kick ass opening theme song!
If you are a fan of F/X original programming or you are a fan of Denis Leary, I highly recommend this series. I watch Lost and House M.D. every week, but the best, most consitently entertaining, and most "real" new series on television is Rescue Me. I can't wait for the new season to start this summer, and I will be the first one in line to purchase this DVD set on June 7th. I suggest you do the same. This is really great TV at it's best!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2005
Being a firefighter myself I had to see this show when it debuted. I have been hooked since. It is very realistic to the things we experience and the problems we see. It shows the things that happen behind the facade of a firehouse. Denis Leary has been very loyal to the fire industry, 9/11 and not letting people forget what happened to my fellow brothers. This show may not show the "glitz" and "glamour" that goes along with being a firefighter, but anyone who says this show is trash is an idiot. We see some of the most disturbing things day in and day out, go through many hard times in our personal lives, and are still required to perform our job to the fullest under all this stress. As the show goes, "They are they to save us, but whose there to save them when they fall." This dvd set is definately worth buying.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2005
OK, I am NOT a huge DVD fan. But, for this show, I made an exception and bought the first season.
This is the best show on TV. Leary is perfect in his role as firefighter, screwed up husband and somewhat devoted dad. Leary never seems to be acting. It always seems to come straight from his core and he has a way of surrounding himself with equally talented actors.
I especially love the absolutely realistic look at addiction, AA meetings and the hell that it can cause in your life. You can feel for Tommy and as a friend says "people in 12 step program have a special perspective on this show". I agree. I really love when Tommy's conscience and higher power comes to talk to him in the form of his cousin or the dead in his life.
The only part I am not overly fond of is the interaction with his dad and uncle. While it is an important to understand where Tommy comes from, it often drags the show for me. BUT, that is my ONLY minor complaint.
I really get into this show and I even ADORE the theme song which seems perfect for this show.
Leary is great! the show is great. BRING ON SEASON TWO ON DVD and SEASON 3 on TV.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2005
I have a rule that any TV show is worth watching the Pilot and so I watched the first episode of Rescue Me. I have to say I thought this would be rubbish, I am the first to admit right now that I couldnt have been more wrong, it is absolutely fantastic!! Denis Leary plays the lead amazingly well, the ensemble cast in general are incredible and the stories and character development throughout the series is excellent. I cannot wait for the series on Region 2, I recommend it for anyone with a DVD player and a sense of humour.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2006
After that dreadful day I believe I began preparing myself. While neighbors and friends found themselves running to hardware stores to locate the life-saving duct tape, I found myself bracing for a rippling predestined cinematic event that was undoubtedly result from that historic day. While filmmakers from all walks of life spoke out about the creation of such films that would remember that day, we all knew it was coming. Human tragedy sparked with a highly skeptical political agenda, what director wouldn't touch it!? So, I waited. It took several years, but it seems as if the flood doors have opened and those like Spike Lee, Michael Moore, and even the great Oliver Stone all have something to share post September 11th. That event has even quietly snuck into our television circuit with overly dramatic made-for-TV movies and modern pop culture television shows paying their own homage, but none have come close to giving us a truthful depiction of those facing life after the towers fell. That is ... until Rescue Me was released.
While I can see the argument made by those who are actual FDNY that this show is nothing but pure drivel, this self-proclaimed film critic couldn't keep his eyes off the amazing performances, the detailed story, and the spirituality of it all. For those unfamiliar, read the synopsis. Comedian Denis Leary tones himself down a bit to play the role of Tommy Gavin, an Irish American forced to cope with life after watching two fellow friends and firefighters die during 9/11. While it is obvious that Leary is the headliner of this show, it is his fellow firefighters that really bring together the meat of the stories. Leary is interesting to watch. His developing story about being able to see those that have died is adventurous, but it is those smaller stories centered around those characters like the Probe, Kenny, friendship of Franco and Sean, as well as the disastrous Chief Jerry Reilly that keep your attention longer. With a strong cast in place, the story does not have to take us to fires everyday, but instead focus' deeper within the lives of these men, all coping with loss of their brothers on that day in September.
What makes Rescue Me stand out, and what I can only applaud the FX channel for, is going as dark as they did with the series. As I began Rescue Me, I was not prepared for the level of chemistry between the cast and the emotional darkness that seemingly engulfed each episode. Not only were you dealing with Leary's "on again, off again" alcoholism, his visions of ghosts in his house, his relationship with his cousin's widow, but you also had a Chief with a gambling addiction, a father trying to discover his youth, and a new firefighter just trying to survive in the city that never sleeps. Rescue Me reminded me of a male version of Sex and the City. There was plenty of comedy genuinely mixed with raw talent and emotion. You could not help but feel sympathy for all the characters involved because they felt very real. While some moments were overly exaggerated for television, I did feel that Rescue Me did a decent job of keeping its feet well planted and powerfully secured.
If I were to complain about this series, there would only be two elements that nearly filled my eyes with rage. The first was the possible switch of brothers surrounding Leary. Leary has a brother that is part of the NYPD, and in several of the early episodes he is played by Dean Winters (of Oz fame), but strangely as the series progresses, we are introduced to a new brother without any explanation. Not a good transition. Hopefully we will get to see Winters again, he always plays a snarled character ... and I love it! The second was the obvious "pro-American" moments that seemed forced throughout the series. I realize that a central part of the series was to show how powerful, human, and dedicated these brave fighters were, but there were just a handful of scenes that could have been omitted with grace. One that first comes to mind is near the end when the team is walking away from a bar and stop to view the NY City lights. Talk of the towers with the memorial come into the scene and it overall just felt forced and a bit cliché. Outside of this, there was very very very little to complain about this series.
Overall, I thought Rescue Me was a bold new show that wasn't afraid to push the television envelope. I think that Leary compliments his humor with real situations and honest emotion. You cannot keep your eyes off the rest of the cast. It is everyone in the firehouse that makes this show as successful as I witnessed. The implementation of a female firefighter seemed fitting and bold as the season began to close, and I especially liked where the Probe's story was headed. The FX has a powerful show with some amazing creativity, I only hope they nurture it further instead of attempting to exploit it. While most will say that Rescue Me is a very chauvinistic male-driven show, I thought it had colorful, yet addictive, storytelling with amazing characters. This was a great blend of drama, comedy, and hot, piping slices of NYC!
Grade: **** out of *****