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Customer Review

on May 29, 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.
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