In 2001, Dennis Leary tried to make a go of it on ABC with "The Job", a TV series that took a darkly funny look at the lives of a group of NYPD officers. The series was never promoted properly by the network, and jumped around from time slot to time slot, eventually being cancelled without all episodes being shown. In my review of "The Job" (which I highly recommend for those who haven't seen it, and it is available on DVD), I noted that the series would have been a success had Showtime, F/X or one of many cable channels picked it up.
After "The Job", Leary took producer Peter Tolan and other members of "The Job" group and headed to F/X to start up "Rescue Me", a drama about NYC Fire Fighters. Once again, Leary and Tolan have created an outstanding piece of television, with "Rescue Me"'s dramatic moments being exceptionally emotional and moving.
In "Rescue", Dennis Leary plays veteran firefighter Tommy Gavin, who offers up a macho attitude when he's with his co-workers, but privately, he remains haunted by the ones that he's lost, which include his cousin . The show does present firefighters as a macho bunch and many of them probably are, but it also does present them with respect - as people who risk their lives day in and day out for considerably less pay than they deserve for what they do. Leary is widely known to be very active in trying to support firefighters, with his charity (The Leary Firefighters Organization, which can be found at learyfirefighters.org, and which is currently trying to raise money to restore fire houses in New Orleans that were destroyed by Katrina) and other benefits.
In each episode, the series shows Gavin and the other firefighters trying to get through their days at work while also trying to keep their family life straight. In the first episode of season 1, Gavin starts paying off his children if they give him info about his soon-to-be-ex wife's new boyfriend. Eventually, he comes upon an interesting tidbit - he lives across the street. "Rescue Me" has earned a Golden Globe nomination for Leary, but it deserves more attention, as the show's writing, despite being somewhat controversial at times, is clever and, throughout the first season, the series has set-up a great bunch of characters.
The second season starts with Gavin at a new fire station out on Staten Island after splitting from his old crew in in the first season. His new position in the burbs remains uneventful (his fellow firefighters are stunned when Gavin is able to calmly put out a car fire) and he misses his old life, but he also must contend with the fact that his ex-wife has run off with his kids and remains completely off-the-map in an attempt to keep him from finding her, despite attempts at help from his lawyer cousin, Eddie (Terry Serpico) and detective brother, Johnny (Dean Winters). The season also sees Tommy attempting to try and get back into the firehouse (despite the fact that everyone has warmed up to his replacement) and tracking down his kids in Ohio by joining the fireman's barbershop quartet that happens to be headed that way.
The third season opens after the tragedy that closed the second season. Tommy still tries to deal with his loss, while Uncle Teddy has been sent to prison and Tommy tries to care for his ailing father. As much as Tommy has to handle as the season opens, it's not long before more starts to pile on top of him, starting with the discovery that his brother Johnny is seeing Janet, which sends him into a rage, leading to a contoversial scene between Tommy and Janet. Tommy also has to face a major decision regarding whether or not to retire.
The season also once again gives the other actors a chance to shine, as all of the characters encounter some serious conflicts of their own, such as Franco's romance with a new woman (played by guest Susan Sarandon), which leads to a shocking result when his daughter goes missing. Sean worries about his safety when he finds romance with Tommy's sister, Maggie (Tatum O'Neal) and the Chief having to face both his wife's continuing Alzheimer's and money woes, not to mention a health crisis of his own later in the season.
"Rescue Me" continues to get even better in its third outing as the series continues to do an exceptional job weaving in-between dark comedy and drama. It's largely as successful as it is because of Leary's delivery, which has exceptional timing and the comic's usual cynical, biting style, which makes it easier to weave in the humor. While Leary was primarily known before this as a comedic actor, "Rescue Me" cements his status as one of the most underrated dramatic actors out there. The supporting performances are also rich across the board and the show does an outstanding job of using NYC locations.
27. 3- 1 30 May 06 Devil
28. 3- 2 6 Jun 06 Discovery
29. 3- 3 13 Jun 06 Torture
30. 3- 4 20 Jun 06 Sparks
31. 3- 5 27 Jun 06 Chlamydia
32. 3- 6 11 Jul 06 Zombies
33. 3- 7 18 Jul 06 Satisfaction
34. 3- 8 25 Jul 06 Karate
35. 3- 9 1 Aug 06 Pieces
36. 3-10 8 Aug 06 Retards
37. 3-11 15 Aug 06 Twilight
38. 3-12 22 Aug 06 Hell
39. 3-13 29 Aug 06 Beached
VIDEO: "Rescue Me" is again presented by Sony Pictures Home Video in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image quality was excellent throughout, as the image remained sharp and detailed (small object detail is often terrific), with only a few moments here-and-there where the image was a bit softer by comparison. The image appeared free of all the usual flaws - edge enhancement, shimmering, pixelation and flaws on the elements used. Colors appeared largely subdued, although I'm guessing that was by intent.
SOUND: "Rescue Me" is presented in Dolby 2.0. The presentation is adequate, as dialogue, sound effects and the title music sounded crisp and clear. A 5.1 repurposing of the sound would certainly have added to the scenes where the crew is called in to fight fires, though.
EXTRAS: Once again, Sony provides a nice array of supplemental features for "Rescue Me", starting with "Behind the Smoke", a 24-minute documentary that has the cast and crew discussing how the characters have changed and evolved for season 3, as well as where the story goes in the third season. The documentary provides some good insights about how the cast and crew approached the development of these characters and their storylines in this third round. We also get a pretty funny "Rescue Me" 12-minute comedy short film, as well as a location tour and 4 deleted scenes.
The second disc offers "Being Dennis Leary", a funny short featurette profiling Leary's stand-in. "Going to the Gay Place" is a featurette that discusses a practical joke played on a couple of the actors, where a "fake" script was given out where two of the firemen had a "romantic" scene. Disc three offers "The Bravest Traditions", which is a short featurette that looks at various firefighting traditions, with interviews with firefighters. We also get "Firefighting in a Virtual City", which has interviews with NYC firefighters who discuss the varying structures that they have to enter and the challenges of firefighting in different buildings. I wish this featurette would have been longer than 5 minutes, as it's a fascinating and informative piece.
Disc 4 offers a very funny gag reel, 6 deleted scenes, a short promo for season 4 (which is currently airing) and "Behind the Hose", a short "on-set" featurette. We also get previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: A strong supporter of the firefighting community, Dennis Leary has crafted a show that feels authentic and also manages to offer a great balance of smart, sharp and dark humor, as well as some moving moments. The DVD edition provides a nice helping of supplemental features, along with very good audio/video quality. Highly recommended.