Rescue Me: Season Three

"Weak"

Rescue Me: Season Three Review


In the first couple of seasons, Denis Leary's FDNY fire opera Rescue Me flung itself through windows and played out in traffic. It busted jaws, opened old wounds just for spite and made grand sport of the whole ungodly train wreck of it all. It was almost as though co-creators Leary and Peter Tolan (The Larry Sanders Show) felt they were going to get canceled any second and so chucked all caution to the wind. In between sitting around the firehouse and indulging in some of the more profane dialogue ever to grace the TV screen (even on basic cable), the characters were subjected to just about any disaster Leary and Tolan could come up with, anything to push these emotionally stunted mugs to the wall and see what devastation they would mete out in response.

But somehow, the pissy little export from the land of the five boroughs -- and rarely has a show so viscerally captured the city's day-to-day, boiling-over, rat-in-a-cage anger -- survived. And this is after sending the wife of the Chief (Jack McGee) into a debilitating Alzheimer's nightmare and not only devastating Tommy Gavin's (Leary) family with the long-term and low-intensity emotional warfare of a never-ending divorce but then, near the end of the second season, having a drunk driver kill Tommy's little boy. That tragedy was then capped off by a nothing-to-lose Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) gunning down the driver in full view of the cops, since a life behind bars seemed preferable to anything else he had going.

So, following that inferno of dysfunctional Irish-wake tragedy, what could the third season come up with? Well, more of the same, it turns out. And yes, the law of diminishing returns does apply, despite the quite valiant efforts of the show's nearly impervious comic relief team of Steven Pasquale and Mike Lombardi, the twin dunces of the firehouse.

Picking up after season two's wicked closer, the Gavin clan remains in horrible shape. Tommy's still trying to stay on the wagon, even with all the pressures that keep trying to force him off, like that killer case of come here/get away afflicting his wife Janet (Andrea Roth); who blames Tommy for their son's death, by the way. The usage of Tommy as the show's driving force finally shows itself here to be a double-edged sword, as there's only so much drama that can be squeezed out of watching him bounce bloodily and boozily from woman to problem to woman to problem. After Tommy falls back yet again -- for something like the 150th time -- into the crazy clutches of his dead cousin's widow Sheila (Callie Thorne, dialed up to a screechy 11 as usual), the entire show begins to smell quite strongly of retread. Desperation follows not long after that, with stunt casting (Susan Sarandon, wasted in a shamefully truncated role), some pathological sexual violence (worsening the show's already quite questionable attitude toward women), and the shamefully mechanical killing off of a major character.

It's one thing to illustrate the trap lived in by these kind of danger-junkie men, where they see very clearly the self-destructive spiral that the pressures of their job is forcing them into and yet don't want to escape, and quite another to keep finding new wrinkles worthy of examination.



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