Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rescue Me: Hail to the Chief

Spoilers -- big, big spoilers -- for the latest "Rescue Me" coming up just as soon as I schedule a man-date...

Well, dammit. No fooling around this time, no fake-outs like last year.

Chief Jerry Reilly is dead.


I confirmed it with people at FX after watching the episode, and Matt Seitz did an interview with Jack McGee (and Peter Tolan) for Television Without Pity.

I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, McGee was always an odd fit for this show. The part was written for Lenny Clarke, which suggests they had something much funnier in mind, and while McGee was good for the occasional crude rejoinder (in this episode, I liked his retort to the guys' suggestions of what he should wear to the wedding), Jerry as played by McGee was the least overtly funny "Rescue Me" character, someone who was often kept out of those famous kitchen scenes, part of the ensemble and yet apart from it.

But, dammit, he was an amazing dramatic actor, money in the bank on any storyline Leary and Tolan ever handed him. I still think back to that bit from the end of season two, after Mrs. Chief tried to kill herself with a straight razor, and Jerry's in the car with someone (either Franco, or Lou, I forget), talking about what an unbelievably raw deal this Alzheimer's thing is, and the entire scene is shot from the back seat, so all you can see is the back of McGee's head and, on occasion, his eyes in the rearview mirror -- and still he killed with the scene.

As I've been saying the last few weeks, I feel like Leary and Tolan have run out of interesting dramatic storylines for these characters, so maybe the death of the Chief should serve as some kind of clean break from the series' comedy/tragedy hybrid style. I'm not saying they should never do a heavy moment again, but that they should save those for when they have a good idea. Instead, I imagine that Jerry's death will be used as an excuse for the other characters in general and Tommy in particular to wallow.

In talking with Matt, he also complained that he didn't buy that Jerry would kill himself -- and that McGee agreed with him. I believe it a little more than they did -- again, he's always been isolated to an extent from the other characters, his wife is in a home and doesn't know who the hell he is, he'll never be completely comfortable around his son (though he made a good effort at saying goodbye with that toast), and now he's had his job as an active firefighter taken away. What else did he have to live for?

Some thoughts on the non-Chief portions of the episode:
  • I would like Nona a lot if it wasn't for her completely irrational romantic pursuit of Tommy, a much older, divorced, drunk who isn't interested and admittedly looks like a hag. Even if it's played as an emasculating joke, her physical and emotional toughness makes her seem like the character that I always wish Diane Farr had been playing. (One question: they shot the scene where Nona picks up Tommy in such a way that you could never see Jennifer Esposito's face. I know she's not a twig and Leary's pretty damn skinny, but does anybody think she could actually carry him like that?)
  • I dislike Tommy and Janet scenes in general, but the moment where he realized the baby calmed down whenever she criticized him was a nice bit.
  • Speaking of Lenny Clarke, they might as well put him and Lenny Venito into a spin-off, because the Teddy/prison guard stuff felt like part of a completely different show.
What did everybody else think? Will the show be the same without the Chief?

18 comments:

Andrew said...

I think you're exagerrating a bit when you say that McGee was kept out of a lot of the kitchen scenes. Granted, I'm never been an avid rewatcher of the show, but I always remember him being there, only not saying much.

Also, I find it very troubling that a show that is clearly having difficulties with its dramatic storylines keeps writing off its best dramatic actors. Last year it was Dean Winters, and now its Jack McGee. Even Charles Durning has been reduced to a comedic charicature in recent seasons despite the fact that he's an extraordinary, proven actor who put in some of the best, most heartfelt dramatic scenes in the show's history during the first season.

I've been a fan of the show for too long to hastily abandon it, but if it doesn't right itself by the end of the season, I might have to call it quits.

anon said...

Matt's piece is up, and boy does Jack McGee not like Dennis Leary. And I'm impressed that Matt got Tolan to talk for a piece that appears on TWoP, given Tolan's previous experience with the forums there.

Anon

Andrew said...

Damn! I had no idea that the article would be so contentious. I don't know what to think. Although I find it disappointing that, according to that article, Tolan & Leary seemed to base their decision to kill Reilly on the need for a plot device to effect the crew. Tolan didn't really talk at all about any sort of character motivations behind it.

Also, I'm skeptical about McGee's claim that there was a lot of animosity surrounding Dean Winter's exit from the show. I only say this because Winters returned to the show briefly for last week's episode.

SJ said...

To me it seems like McGee is blowing things waaaaay out of proportion. He seems like one of those people who want everything their way and they act out because they are not in charge.

Denis Leary is probably an asshole, but whatever.

Anyways I did find the suicide very surprising! Sure, he "lost" his wife and his job but what the heck he is one of the most stand-up guys on the show. Surely he knows that a suicide would effect the crew and his son a lot?? He has seen death all through his career and he knows how it effects other people too...

I am hoping this is the last season because this show has done just about everything.

jim treacher said...

I'm with McGee. Sounds like he won't be one of Tommy's ghosts...

jim treacher said...

It just occurred to me... why would he have a salad as his last meal? If he knew he was going to blow his brains out, why not do it with a belly full of steak or something? What was he worried about, another heart attack? The only reason to have him eat a salad was to misdirect the viewer, which stinks.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think you're exagerrating a bit when you say that McGee was kept out of a lot of the kitchen scenes. Granted, I'm never been an avid rewatcher of the show, but I always remember him being there, only not saying much.

That's probably a more accurate take, Andrew, but the larger point is the same The kitchen scenes are the comic heart of the show, and McGee was rarely used in them.

To me it seems like McGee is blowing things waaaaay out of proportion. He seems like one of those people who want everything their way and they act out because they are not in charge.

From what little I know of McGee and Leary in my interactions with them, I suspect there's a bit of truth on both sides. McGee's not shy about expressing his opinion, and in a manner that can rub his employers/co-stars the wrong way, but I also think Leary's a guy who responds badly to being challenged.

FitzeesMrs said...

I'm done.
Been watching Rescue Me since the first season, always been a big fan of fellow Massachusetts native sons Dennis Leary and Lenny Clark.
But the chief committing suicide was too much. I realize this is a "dark comedy" but it's turning Tommy into NYPD Blue's Sipowicz. Too much tragedy gets hard to believe after a while.
The show is still laugh out loud funny "tsunami story again?" but it's gotten too depressing for me to stick with. Tired of no one ever getting a happy ending.

DonBoy said...

I didn't realize that sitting at a computer, someone can delete not only a computer file about an arson investigation, but the memories of everybody who's working on it or knows that a working member of the FDNY is involved in such a thing.

Anonymous said...

It's weird -- I just got an e-mail from NBC Universal touting Matt's interview.

Yes, I know TWoP is a separate entity, along with Matt.

But it's just so unusual that a major maker and broadcaster of television has now become its own newsmaker.

the2scoops said...

I just didn't buy the Chief killing himself, it just didn't jive with what we know of the character. A much more effective take on this type of story was the late great Homicide: Life on the Street, when Crosetti was found. The difference is that we didn't see everything happening in his life before he died, and we never really know why he did it.

I don't know if it's because of that great article from Matt, but in hindsight, it looked like in the last few episodes that Jack McGee just had this "let's just get this over with" look in his eyes I hadn't seen last season.

Anonymous said...

Leary can kiss my Irish ass. McGee has always been one of the anchors of the show. His character, along with Franco and Lieu are the only reasons I watch. I tend to zone out when it's all Leary, all the time.

We'll miss you Chief.

Anonymous said...

McGee should be happy to be off this sinking ship.

Besides the been there, done that feeling of most of the storylines, they don't even make any sense anymore. The first episode of the season made it seem like everyone thought Sheila was dead. Then not only is she alive, but apparently everyone has always known she was alive. Huh? Then there's the ridiculous storyline with Jennifer Esposito chasing after Tommy. Besides it being the billionth time a hot girl has inexplicably wanted Tommy, it's also completely unclear what the hell is going on with him and Janet. Whether or not they are back together literally seems to change from scene to scene.

Anonymous said...

Spoilers -- big, big spoilers -- for the latest "Rescue Me" coming up just as soon as I schedule a man-date...

The above, coupled with the photograph you chose, tipped me off something big was going to happen. I suppose on some level the way the spoiler alert is written is itself a spoiler. Of course, it was pretty easy to see coming from the narrative, but based on the above, I was looking for the clues before I knew that there were going to be any.

Edward Copeland said...

McGee and Scurti have always been my favorite part of the show. I'm not ready to give up on it yet, but I hate to see him go.

Randy said...

I've been watching the series from the very begining. Let me tell you, my jaw hit the floor the minute Jerry stuck the pistol in his mouth. I can understand his motive, wife doesn't know who he is, hes too uncomfortable around his son, and his pasion in life was taken away from him. I actually thought that McGee's character was an excellent fit for the series. He will be missed. As for what the show is going to do, I don't believe that the crew is going to find out in the next episode that Jerry is dead, also, I believe fire investigators will probably hound Tommy, thinking that he had something to do with eliminating his arson case...

dez said...

Well, that sucked.

I also was tipped off to what was coming based on your "big, big spoilers" and picture of the Chief (plus the "Hail to the Chief" thing), Alan. Of course, it's my own damn fault for coming to your blog at all before seeing the ep :(

Anonymous said...

Maybe Chief missed like his own father did when he left the FDNY? Remember Jerry talking to Tommy about that in season 1 episode 1 or 2