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The Return of "Rescue Me"

By admin Published: April 7, 2009

After the jump is the review I wrote for Sunday's Beacon Journal. As I say in the piece, I saw three episodes; FX sent out nine and I expect to get to more as we go along. Time permitting, I may also post notes on individual telecasts. But here, at least, is an overview. And I remain really ambivalent about the show.

The print piece:

Rescue Me returns Tuesday after a 19-month hiatus, and I am still not sure how welcoming I feel.
At the end of the fourth season in September 2007, I wrote that it had been ‘‘off-kilter, badly paced, erratic."
"The show has just lost its magic, the knack for balancing comedy and drama, the way it gave all the characters shape, the way it made us care about people,’’ I blogged at the time, and nothing since then has changed my mind.
I think the show, too, sensed something was amiss. Because the 22-episode fifth season, which begins at 10 p.m. Tuesday on FX, is in a fundamental way an attempt to get back to what made the show so powerful.
That was, of course, the shadow of 9/11. The New York City firefighters at the center of the series may have behaved badly, stupidly, callously and disrespectfully. They had their demons and their virtues, the latter including their willingness to keep going into burning buildings.
But everything they did had an undercoating of the losses they had experienced from the terrorist attacks; as bad as they were, they were made more moving by their pain.
Although more than seven years have passed since 9/11, the new season of Rescue Me brings it back into the mix via a French journalist (Karina Lombard, The L Word) who comes to the firehouse as part of her research for a book about the attacks. The firefighters' reactions vary considerably, but old hurts and anger return as they think about it.
But there are also issues from the previous seasons. Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) is not only fighting his old addictions but trying to deal with the death of his father (Charles Durning) and with his relationship with his ex-wife (Andrea Roth) and oldest daughter (Natalie Distler). And both those women have new men in their lives, and both those men add to the challenges Tommy faces.
Of course, the show isn't just about Tommy. Lou (John Scurti) is still seeking love. Mike (Michael Lombardi) goes into business with Sean (Steven Pasquale) and Franco (Daniel Sunjata). Tommy's Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) takes the death of his brother very hard -- and one of the best scenes in the first three episodes involves Teddy venting to Tommy.
Still, while I watched those three episodes, I kept wondering if it was worth the effort. Some of the humor feels more obvious and predictable. The drama isn't going anywhere fresh. Tommy's story is same old, same old. I kept waiting for some of the magic that once made Rescue Me one of my favorite shows, and got at best glimpses buried in more routine fare.
It could get better down the road, of course. In fact, FX sent out the first nine episodes for preview. But I don't know if people will stick around that long. Or even for three shows. Or one. Rescue Me squandered a lot of goodwill last time around, and I'm still not ready to give it back.

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