Rescuing “Rescue Me”

September 1, 2010

I do not envy the writers of Rescue Me. For 6 seasons they’ve had a male lead whose only significant acting experience is The Thomas Crown Affair and Operation Dumbo Drop. Since season 1 the plot lines have become so intricate and tangled that it wouldn’t surprise me if Denis Leary appeared as himself during an episode, paying a visit to cheer up Tommy Gavin. And lest we forget the prompt they got the first day “Self-destructive firefighter struggles with his own demons against the backdrop of a post-9/11 New York City and FDNY.” What a dream job; write about America’s most recent national tragedy while making the flawed main character a member of our country’s most sacred civil service profession.

Understandably, the show lost its way a little bit after the first season. It became less about the job, and more about Tommy Gavin, the sarcastic alcoholic we all love despite his twin-tower size deficiencies as a human being. In seasons 3 and 4, the show devolved to a softcore porn starring Denis Leary. Every episode another gorgeous woman was inexplicably fighting for the attention of drunken, already married, Tommy Gavin. Everything Tommy did was an act of selfish gratification, only mitigated by the occasional bout of self loathing.

This season opens up with [SPOLIER ALERT] Tommy recovering from the gunshot wound he received from his Uncle Teddy during the season 5 finale. Tommy has several new pitfalls to maneuver around this year, and fortunately, none of them have involved Tommy Gavin’s withered Irish ass having sex. When he leaves the hospital he comes home to find that his oldest daughter has taken up the family pastime: drinking herself into oblivion. Franco has made himself a fixture in the family during Tommy’s absence, endearing himself to Janet. Lou is forced to deal with health problems stemming from his weight. The firehouse is threatened with the axe due to budget cuts. Oh, and did we mention that Tommy went to Hell when he died momentarily on his way to the hospital? Well, he did and it makes for some pretty interesting conversation.

Sure, some things haven’t changed at all. Tommy is still a struggling alcoholic, Janet is still a hypocritical bitch, Sheila is still bat-shit insane, and sexual relationships still provide a majority of the dramatic fodder. Peter Gallagher guest stars as a priest who provides Tommy, and the show, with some balance and good advice. With all these elements, the show should see its best season so far.

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