Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well acted, funny, sometimes moving - a great show, February 22, 2006
This review is from: Rescue Me: Season 1 (DVD)
'Rescue Me' tells the story of a group of male New York firefighters, three years after the September 11 attacks. Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) is the central character, a man haunted by ghosts of his past, alcoholism, an irresponsible father and a looming divorce. The rest of the firehouse, including Lou, a closet poet, and the Probie (Probations officer), a naive initiate, are compelling characters. Over the course of the season, most of the action is focused on Tommy - his life, his struggles and the occasional fire that needs to be put out.

This isn't so much a show about firefighters as it is a show about men. Much of the sparkling dialogue, which is a real highlight of the show, centres around male-oriented topics - most of it based squarely in sex. At the same time, all the sharing of intimate sexual details is in strong contradistinction to the burdens each of these men carry. None seem to be able to communicate with one another. None can discuss their own ghosts, past or problems. Having a 'heart to heart' is an enormous effort in itself - something done in secrecy, almost like it's something to be ashamed of.

The strongest part of this show is, by an absolute mile, the brilliant Denis Leary. Along with co-writing nearly every episode of the show, Leary shines well above the rest of the cast. His Tommy Gavin is so many things - vitriolic, kind-hearted, violent, tender, troubled, the list goes on - that watching him is entertainment in itself. With Leary as co-writer, there's also plenty of strong belly laughs. The script is probably the funniest I've ever seen in a drama series.

Another very strong feature of this show is the unpredictability of the plot-lines. The show never goes where you expect it will. It is very powerful in that respect. Unlike Six Feet Under or other comparable shows, Rescue Me doesn't rely on stirring strings or indie-rock soundtracks at opportune moments to emphasise a 'powerful moment'. The dialogue and the action is effective enough in itself.

Where the show loses a point is that, occasionally, the dialogue can get a little silly. There's so much male banter that it becomes a little ridiculous. Also, there's not much firefighting at all. Lastly, Tommy sees ghosts all the time. He has full and frank discussions with them like they are real people, every episode. Clearly the man is insane? One has to suspend one's disbelief for a while.

Ultimately though, this is a show I would recommend purely on the basis that it is so off-beat and original that it really stands alone. It is not as good as any of the truly excellent HBO drama series, like Deadwood, The Wire, Rome or The Sopranos. It is more on a par with The Shield - hardboiled, raw, funny... but really, just a little bit too safe. There's nothing truly confronting or challenging about it. It's very good, all the same.
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