Sony // 2006 // 571 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // June 5th, 2007
They save us. But who saves them?
Forget Nip/Tuck. Forget The Shield. Forget Dirt (please, please forget Dirt...). Rescue Me is the best show on F/X.
The third season of Rescue Me once again follows alcoholic New York firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary, Small Soldiers) on the journey through his own personal hell. A recent tragedy has torn his family apart and death haunts him every day, as he's followed by the spirits of those who have passed on. Accompanying Tommy on his journey are the men in his crew: Chief Jerry O'Reilly (Jack McGee, Backdraft), a gambling addict struggling to take care of his sick wife; thick-headed Sean Garrity (Steven Pasquale of the forthcoming Alien vs. Predator: AVP2); ladies' man and single father Franco (Daniel Sunjata, The Devil Wears Prada); deeply depressed lieutenant Kenny "Lou" Shea (John Scurti, War of the Worlds (2005)); and the newest member of the house, the sexually confused Mike "Probie" Siletti (Mike Lombardi, The Job).
Here are the episodes that make up Rescue Me -- The Complete Third Season. Tread lightly, as spoilers may follow:
The season begins with Tommy still reeling from the death of his son and his impending divorce from Janet (Andrea Roth, Highwaymen). Struggling to stay sober, things get even tougher for Tommy when the fire department bans smoking -- leading to a bet among the guys on 62 truck. Shelia (Callie Thorne, Strangers With Candy) approaches Tommy for help in finding out who her son is sleeping with.
Tommy's dad (Charles Durning, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) turns 83, and the birthday party leads to some disturbing revelations from his brother Johnny (Dean Winters, Oz) and Sean.
While still trying to deal with the fallout from his father's birthday party, Tommy is asked to step in and end the relationship between his nephew and a teacher; Franco has some reservations about Alicia (Susan Sarandon, Shall We Dance (2004)), the wealthy older woman he's been seeing; Lou sinks even deeper into depression.
Sean finally comes clean about the fact that he's been dating Tommy's sister Maggie (Tatum O'Neal, Little Darlings); Tommy visits a sperm bank to ensure that the Gavin family has a male heir; Tommy's relationship with Janet takes an interesting turn.
Tommy finds out that his relationship with Miss Turbody (Paige Turco, The Pompatus of Love) may have disastrous repercussions; Franco reveals a secret to Alicia, only to see her betray him; a chance encounter with Johnny's ex-wife Angie (Marisa Tomei, Alfie (2004)) gives Tommy an idea for a revenge plot against his wife and brother.
Tommy and Angie's revenge plan is put into motion; Sean takes some sleeping pills and winds up sleepwalking around New York; Franco and Lou have a close call during a fire.
Tommy pays a visit to his daughter's guidance counselor, where he discovers his recent crying jags are a result of "survivor's guilt"; Sheila takes action against Tommy for his relationship with Angie.
Sean and Maggie get engaged; Tommy works overtime trying to balance his relationships with Janet, Sheila, and Angie; Lou takes up yoga and starts getting his life back together; "Probie" makes a big save in a fire.
A visit to a badly injured firefighter, coupled with the future plans of the guys on 62 truck (Franco wants to make Lieutenant, Mike wants to transfer, Lou wants to live on a boat), gives Tommy second thoughts about his future as a firefighter; Franco starts a relationship with a photographer (Sherri Saum, House Party 3).
Sheila buys Tommy a new truck with "no strings attached"; Franco finds himself struggling with his the demands of his girlfriend's mentally challenged brother; Mike's secret is revealed to the guys in the house.
Taking care of his father continues to create problems for Tommy; Jerry starts dating a younger woman and seeks out some performance enhancing drugs; Lou begins seeing a nun.
Tommy gets the worst possible news about his brother; Jerry is hospitalized following his date; Sean and Maggie take the next step; Tommy decides to take Sheila up on her offer and leave the department.
As the third season comes to a close, the futures of the men of 62 truck are up for grabs; Tommy wrestles with deciding what direction his life should take.
Who knew? Who knew, way back in the early 1990s, when Denis Leary was just some cigarette-smoking, fast-talking comic pacing in front of a chain link fence on MTV, that he would eventually give one of the best performances on television? Who knew that he would help create one of the darkest, funniest, most emotionally raw series in recent memory? Who knew?
That's just what he's done. Following one previously failed collaboration (ABC's criminally overlooked half-hour cop comedy The Job), Leary and writer/producer Peter Tolan have created a searing comedy/drama about the lives of damaged heroes. It's raw and challenging without forgetting to be entertaining. The shadow of September 11th still hangs over these characters, and death has become something of a way of life for them. That doesn't mean they've stopped cracking jokes; I can't think of another show that mixes comedy and pain as well as this one does. And if I can't say enough about the show itself, allow me to praise two specific performers: Denis Leary and Callie Thorne (Shelia) have created two of the best characters -- and consistently give two of the finest performances -- in series television. Both are alternately hilarious and tragic, and together create the darkest couple this side of Sid and Nancy; they are sexy and funny and dark and scary, and their scenes together are electric. Leary's Emmy nomination this last go-around was overdue, and Callie Thorne's work remaining overlooked borders on criminal.
I would, in some of my weaker moments, even suggest that Rescue Me may be the rightful heir to the soon-to-relinquished Sopranos crown. Sure, it doesn't have that show's elegance and only some of its depth (so far), but it's one of the only shows that allows its characters to be so twisted and flawed and still lets us root for them. Yes, a guy can be a hero and a prick. His wife can hate his guts but still see in him the man she married. No one is beyond redemption (Catholicism and spirituality have always played a major role on the show, but are less prevalent themes in Season Three). We are not told how to feel about these characters or their actions. Rescue Me gives us more credit than that.
Season Three met with some controversy following the episode "Sparks," in which (SPOILERS) Tommy forces himself on his wife; what follows starts out as an apparent rape but eventually, I think, turns consensual. It's easy to understand why casual viewers may have gotten up in arms, but I would argue that they do not understand the show. It goes to some very, very dark places. Tommy is not always a good guy (in fact, though I once declared Ari Gold of HBO's Entourage to be "the most likeable bastard on TV," I'm now handing that title over to Tommy Gavin). His relationship with his wife is not a healthy one, and this scene really goes to the heart of that. And while I would also argue that the act isn't surprising coming from Tommy, it does shed some new light on the Janet character. She's usually seen as the sensible one; the victim whose lot in life is to put up with this crazed mess of a man she once married. Yet in this episode, we see that she's every bit as damaged in Tommy -- she just does a better job of hiding it. Controversy or not, that's an important point to be making.
Elsewhere this season, it's pretty much business as usual. Lou is allowed to go to some dark places, only to come out the same wisecracking ball-buster he was before (Leary and John Scurti have near-perfect timing together); Franco takes two steps forward towards maturing (finding a steady girlfriend), then quickly takes two steps back (giving up on his daughter). Not much real progress is made by any of the guys, and while some viewers may claim that's proof of the writers stagnating, I would counter that it's absolutely true to these characters. Can the show play that way forever? Heck no -- sooner or later, the show has to take some chances and these men have to grow. For now, though, I'm happy to spend the time in the service of such stellar writing and acting.
Sony gives Rescue Me -- The Complete Third Season the same excellent treatment it's given to the previous two seasons. The show is presented in the same 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio that it's broadcast in, and has been enhanced for 16x9 playback. Because the show is so cinematic in its construction, the DVD reflects that -- the transfer is excellent, showing remarkable detail and sharpness. The 5.1 Dolby audio track is equally cinematic, clearly delivering the rapid-fire dialogue while paying great attention to the effects in the surround channels -- particularly during the fire-fighting sequences. From a technical standpoint, the Rescue Me sets are among the best TV-on-DVD discs available.
Though no Denis Leary/Peter Tolan commentary track has been recorded for this set (and their profane exchanges are sorely missed), Sony has gone ahead and included a boatload of other extras. There are five featurettes, the first of which provides a general overview of the third season (if you've seen all the episodes, the piece offers little new information) and the rest of which cover different aspects of the production. Most of them are done with the same jokey tone found in the show -- particularly a piece called "Being Denis Leary," which follows a day in the life of Leary's stunt double. For fans of the series, the featurettes offer some of the same rewards as the episodes without really increasing any understanding of the writers' intentions or motivations.
An on-location set tour takes viewers on a walk through the firehouse, though most of the good comparisons between this show and real-life firefighting can be found on previous sets (like the fact that you don't work with the same crew of guys every day -- kind of a biggie). Something called a "Rescue Me Comedy Short" has been included, but I'm not sure what that means; it plays more like a deleted sequence from the show itself. There are some other deleted scenes on hand, none of which are really missed by being cut out. Of all the bonus features, the best is probably a short blooper reel, mostly because it once again demonstrates the camaraderie of the actors and allows them to cuss a bunch when they blow a line.
The FX network has done something rather clever with Rescue Me; while the rest of summer television is a wasteland of reruns and cheap reality television (Really? Pirate Master??), they opt to run new seasons of their best shows. That means you, dear reader, still have time to catch up. Pick up the first two seasons for relatively cheap (they can usually be found for around 20 bucks each), then check out The Complete Third Season just in time for Season Four to kick off in a couple of weeks. I promise you'll be glad you did.
C'mon, C'mon. Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2007 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 571 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 5 Featurettes
* On-Set Location Tour
* Blooper Reel
* Deleted Scenes
* Rescue Me Comedy Short
* Behind-the-Scenes Clips
* Season Four Preview
* Bonus Trailers
* Official Site
* Season One Review
* Season Two Review