Tuesday, July 12, 2011
"Rescue Me" gears up for its final season
I can think of few shows with higher highs and lower lows than FX's drama "Rescue Me." When it focuses on firefighter Tommy Gavin's (Denis Leary) relationship with the other guys in his house and the still-raw emotional wounds left behind by 9/11, it's great. When it focuses on Tommy's relationship with the women in his life, it's shrill and often unbearably so.
The seventh and final season of the show, starts Wednesday at 10 p.m. and, based on the seven episodes I've seen so far, it pretty much retains that pattern.
The early episodes, focusing a lot on Tommy's relationship with wife Janet (Andrea Roth), former girlfriend Sheila (Callie Thorne) and his two daughters, are often irritating. There are several scenes in the second episode alone that made me incredibly embarrassed for many of the (fairly talented) actresses playing Tommy's angels. With few exceptions (the troubled love interest played by Maura Tierney -- who returns briefly this season -- leaps to mind), this show just doesn't know what to do with women. That's a shame, because that same episode has some really good slapstick involving the firefighters getting their required physicals.
That's the thing about "Rescue Me." It has a lot of good stuff, but the bad stuff is often so off-putting, it makes it hard to stick with the show.
However, I do recommend sticking with it. As the series heads toward its end, the series turns its focus from Tommy's personal life to his professional one and becomes its best self. There are some really moving scenes that revolve around the firefighter characters and their feelings about 9/11 (fittingly, the show picked the year of the 10th anniversary to air its final season). There's also some interesting stuff about Lou's health problems, made even compelling by John Scurti's always-excellent work as Lou. The acting on this show is uniformly strong, with even Thorne managing to rise about her cartoonishly nutty character to offer some affecting moments.
Despite my mixed feelings about "Rescue Me," I get enough out of this show to stick with it to its end. Will I miss it? Yes, I probably will. At its best, it's funny, emotionally wrenching and action-packed. But I'll also remember how much this show frustrated me, and how much I wished it would realize its potential more consistently.