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00657 – RESCUE ME

MovieHype00657 – RESCUE ME


You want to know how big my balls are? My balls are bigger than two of your heads duct-taped together. I've been in the middle of shit that would make you piss your pants right now. Uptown, downtown, Harlem, Brooklyn. But there ain't no medals on my chest, assholes, 'cause I ain't no hero. I'm a fireman. We're not in the business of making heroes here. We're in the business of discovering cowards, 'cause that's what you are if you can't take the heat. You're a pussy, and there ain't no room for pussies in the FDNY.

-Tommy Gavin, to a new group of recruits

Welcome to the third installment in our series, “TV Shows You Need to Own on DVD.” Previously we’ve looked at Firefly and Deadwood, works that no serious fan of the Audio Visual Arts should be without. Today I bring you another: Rescue Me.

While NYPD Blue and Law & Order pretty much ignored 9/11, Rescue Me is the first TV show to go straight at the heart of what it means to live in post-apocalyptic New York. I don’t mean to suggest the show is all about terrorism or grief or even the day the towers fell. It’s not. But when Rescue Me takes its bow, Tommy Gavin (wonderfully played by Denis Leary) is a firefighter trying to hold it together. His “truck” (what the various fire houses are called) lost several people on that fateful day, including Tommy’s cousin and best friend. Now Tommy is a borderline alcoholic with a failing marriage and so much anger it could explode at any time.

Oh yeah. And dead people, the ones he couldn’t save? They talk to him.

In no way is this a Six Feet Under or Dead Like Me or Touched by a Fire Hose. Denis Leary plays is straight, which is both endearing and at times infuriating.

To my knowledge there has never been a successful show about firefighters. Of course everyone loved BACKDRAFT, but that was action driven. In Rescue Me, we actually get to hang out with the firefighters, see what makes their world go around. A great deal of it is boredom, but it’s the nervous kind. They want something to happen, but when it does, lives can change in an instant.

Leary (who’s the executive producer and wrote some of the episodes) clearly loves firefighters. His charity work in the Boston and New York area for different fire houses is well known. He gets them. But make no mistake: this is not a puff piece. You realize how heroic these guys are, but you also see how human and frail and weak they can be too.

We’re almost inside the minds of firefighters, and we see their ultra-macho image, and what might happen if anything were to mess that up. You can imagine how a girl firefighter would be received in a fire house. How about a gay firefighter?

It’s strange, but I found these characters much more likable that they were just superheroes. To call them super takes away from the bravery they must show every time they suit up and run into a burning building. Wisely, the creators don’t just give us action scene after action scene (one shudders to think of Michael Bay directing), but when those scenes do come they are intense and scary.

Season 1 of Rescue Me is virtually flawless, and Season 2 (just out on video this week) is if anything better. There is a good deal of language and adult subject matter, and I would not let anyone under 16 watch. But this is television at its very best, and you need to watch it. Go ahead and rent Season 1. I bet you zip through the 13 episodes in two days, and you’ll go ahead and buy both seasons.

And you won’t be sorry.

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