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'Rescue Me' as Dependable as Jeter
July 24, 2011  | By Alan Pergament
The FX series Rescue Merescued me one recent weekend.

I was sick and felt kind of low, but had seven episodes of the final season (back Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET) to make me laugh, think about death and how crazy life can be.

I had to get to Episode 7, which was titled "Jeter." I assumed it had something to do with shortstop Derek Jeter, who'd just gotten his 3000th hit as a New York Yankee.

And sure enough in this episode (set to air Aug. 24), there were a few lines comparing a firefighter to the dependable Jeter while another firefighter looked to be a hero like A-Rod.

Can you guess which character is referred to as "The Mick" or Mickey Mantle? I'm betting some longtime fans of this series about New York City firefighters dealing with the aftermath of losing 343 of their own on 9/11 might be able to guess that one.

With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 weeks away, there is no question that it is time for Rescue Me to end its run.

It gets off to a slower than usual start in early episodes, but by Episode 3 it catches fire, and each episode after that is an interesting blend of anger, pain, guilt, blame, scatological humor and poignancy.

The series centers on Denis Leary's volatile Tommy Gavin, who has had his share of personal and professional crises over the years -- most self-inflicted.


The craziness this time involves an unlikely alliance between his pregnant wife, Janet (Andrea Roth), and Sheila (Callie Thorne, photo at right), his late cousin's wife with whom Tommy had a torrid affair. Janet and Sheila have detested each other for years, but now it seems time for forgiveness and togetherness.

Things do get a bit strange on Rescue Me so you just have to accept the crazy parts to enjoy the poignant parts. In other story lines, Tommy's alcoholic daughter Colleen (Natalie Distler) is preparing to marry Black Shawn (Larenz Tate), one of Tommy's co-workers in the firehouse. Subplots include Franco Rivera's (Daniel Sunjata) attempt to become a lieutenant and Lt. Kenny "Lou" Shea's (John Scurti) attempt to stop eating doughnuts and save his best friend Tommy from himself.

That is a 24/7 job as Tommy loses it during a TV interview with a female reporter doing a story on the anniversary of 9/11 that gets a little too personal.

The media are dealt with pretty harshly in Rescue Me, with the theme of looking to get dirt rather than detailing the heroic stories supposedly being reported. While some of the media heat is deserving, some of it is it is as exaggerated as it is funny. Wait until you see how the female TV reporter gets her comeuppance. She is a condescending interviewer, pretending to care when she is just looking for a good sound bite or dirt to propel her career. She gets a good quote from Tommy: "There are no happy endings."

As far as the dirt, let's just say the firefighters know how to fight fire with fire.

The scripts can get a little sophomoric, as in the case of a female lover with a post-coital problem that requires a firefighter to eventually use a piece of his firefighting equipment to survive.

But there are also some tender, poignant moments scattered in, when the firefighters look at Ground Zero from a building nearby; Deputy Chief Sidney Feinberg (Jerry Adler) talks about the best way to honor heroes (it doesn't involve walls and memorials); Tommy Gavin questions the commercialism of 9/11; and Tommy is eventually moved to express his feelings about the friends and family he fought with and loves.

In the end, despite the occasional R-rated dialogue, Rescue Me is a family show that illustrates how arguing, debating and fighting with each other can just be a way to express love with those who can handle conflict more easily than they can handle guilt and blame.

The first seven episodes made available for review seem poised to deliver a powerful ending that may even live up to Sidney Feinberg's belief about the best way to honor heroes.

In the end, Rescue Me has become as dependable as Derek Jeter, delivering entertaining and thoughtful entertainment, with absurd humor and situations mixed in with real-life issues.

Just don't expect any happy ending.


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