Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rescue Me: That's it for me!

Okay, I think I may be quits with "Rescue Me." Thoughts on why, including spoilers for episode four and some non-spoilery thoughts on next week's episode, coming right up...

In the mad rush to get ready for press tour, I saw that FX had sent me the next two episodes, and I watched them both in hopes of doing some advance blogging. Instead, they left me feeling so empty that I didn't feel compelled to write about them for days afterward. I'm not mad the way I was after Tommy raped Janet. I'm not offended. I just don't care anymore, and I think that's on the show as much as, if not more than, it's on me.

In the middle of the otherwise contentions TWoP feature on Jack McGee's departure, Peter Tolan explained that they killed off Jerry because they wanted something that would shake up the other characters. Leaving aside the theory that drama works better when it flows out of the characters instead of outside forces, Jerry's death feels especially cheap now because almost no shaking up takes place. There was some nice work on the opening montage, and on Lou's speech about Sean being too young to understand why Jerry might have done it, and then... nothing. Aside from some talk later in this episode and in next week's show (mostly jokes) about what to do with the cremains, it's like Jerry never existed. None of the characters' actions and reactions are informed by his death. I don't want to take sides in the McGee/Leary feud, but thus far it's playing out like they just wanted to be rid of the guy as quickly as possible.

If it was just the non-impact of the Chief's death, I might be willing to stick around, but that's just a symptom of a much larger problem. On this show, it seems like nothing impacts on anything anymore. "Rescue Me" is just a jumble of scenes -- some funny, some dramatic, some lame -- that all feature the same characters but have little connection to one another. The firefighting scene where the guys get lost was one of the more unnerving ones they've ever done, but it takes place in complete isolation, not affecting the characters in any way after it's over. You could chop it out, or reshuffle every scene into random order, and very little of the episode would feel different.

When I suggested at the start of the season,that the show might be better off dropping the dramatic angle and turning into a straight up comedy, it was more because the dramatic parts weren't working than because the comic parts were so great (aside from the occasional kitchen scene or good line by John Scurti). And now I'm not even really laughing at the comedy. Tommy and Janet's couples therapy session was painful (not to mention fourth wall-breaking, since Tommy putting quote marks around "the rape" was Leary referring to all the real world discussion of that scene, as opposed to how it played out in the reality of the show), the Nona storyline continues to make no sense except as an ego trip, and certain characters like the retarded brother and Uncle Teddy (who's back next week) just need to go away.

If it seems like I'm being overly harsh after an episode that has a few very good sequences (again, the opener and the fire), it's because I've seen next week, which is even dumber and more disjointed. There's still just enough solid material that I expect to stick it out through the end of the season, but with press tour about to consume my every waking moment for a few weeks, I don't think I'm going to feel compelled to carve out spare time to blog on this show for a while.

What did everybody else think?

30 comments:

jim treacher said...

You gave it one more episode than I did, Alan.

Anonymous said...

Bitch, bitch, bitch. Alan, I'm almost sick of reading your recaps for this show. While this show may not reach the heights of The Wire or The Shield anymore, it remains a consistently entertaining hour of television. I guess I'm not as bothered by the dramatic inconsistencies as you are. While I came around to agree with you on your constant complaints about Studio 60, your constant complaining about Rescue Me have almost made me go the other way. I'm not saying you should go out of your way to unnecessarily praise the show, but the comedic elements and some of the dramatic themes such as the Tommy's rant about the Chief redeem the show for me.

Rick said...

I don't know, "Anonymous," Rescue Me seems to be a lost cause at this stage of the game. I didn't watch last night's episode, as the chief's suicide left such a bad taste in my mouth I decided to bail.

What strikes me is how far we've fallen away from what the show was originally about: firefighters dealing with the aftermath of 9/11. While years have past and people have moved on, it seems like there's still plenty of drama every day in the New York papers to supply enough relevant storylines for seasons to come (the toxic air seems to be an especially prescient example, and one that was completely glossed over during the third episode this season). Now the show is nothing more than a parody of itself.

So... I'm out.

Jenn said...

I watched last night to see how they would handle Jerry's death. What a joke (aside from the opening scene). His son would come back in a few days? He didn't care what they did with the ashes? Why did we spend so much time on their reconciliation and acceptance if Peter was just going to flush Jerry down the toilet (so to speak).

And Janet has returned to being the most shrewish character on TV. Of course she was touched that Tommy would buy his way back into Colleen's life; that's Janet's M.O.

I can only imagine what's going to happen next week. Sheila kidnaps the unnamed baby? Richard swallows Franco's engagement ring? Someone snorts Jerry's ashes? For this show, that ridiculousness wouldn't be out of the question.

I'm out, though I will miss your recaps Alan; you've always been able to put into words what wasn't working for me.

curious george said...

You're right, of course, Alan. This rings true, and I was ready to disagree from your first sentence. But you're right.

"Rescue Me" has become a series of only tangentially connected vignettes. There are some funny sequences occasionally, but few that are memorable weeks beyond airing. There are some great speeches (Leary's monologue in the first episode about heroes, Leary's monologue when trying to get a free drink at the bar, Scurti and Leary's monologue last night about the chief, et cetera). But there is no long term consequence for any of the drama and trauma that occurs. Nothing other than a token reaction to the chief's death; only the occasional mention of Leary's son's death. Last night's scene with the marriage counselor wasn't self parody; it was just an itemization of all the cheap stunts that the producers have pulled to traumatize these characters over the years. I am beginning to think that the writers/producer have only two goals in mind with this show: to out-sorrow whatever happened in the previous season and to give Dennis Leary monologues, some of which occasionally work. The first season seemed so much more realistic; it was grim and dark, but it looked like it aspired to the same heights as Six Feet Under. But it has just become silly and there isn't really any continuity. Last night's episode makes me believe the actor who played the Chief; his departure wasn't a plot device. He just pissed off Leary.

Anonymous said...

Alan, dude, you've GOT to have one show to complain about! Some of us come here to hear you gripe about the shows we love to hate. With Studio 60 off to oblivion and Grey's on hiatus, you've got to keep blogging about Leary's Folly!

jim treacher said...

"Alan, I'm almost sick of reading your recaps for this show."

Who's forcing you?

Sandi said...

A few others have already expressed my thoughts here, but I wanted to chime in to say "ditto" to Jenn and Curious George. I am pained at the story lines that seem to do nothing more than stroke Leary's ego, and I even forgot the show was on last night until it was already 20 minutes in. That's a testament to my interest. "Oh yeah, I knew there was something I wanted to see on Wednesdays."

So to echo Anonymous right before me, Alan, I find your rants about this show amusing and relatable.

Anonymous said...

Well, now we know what it takes for Treacher to give up on a show.

DVA118 said...

I never watched the show, but for typical boring reasons followed your commentary here and can say though I was intrigued at times, I'm not interested to pick up the show and start following it.

BUT: Is the first season good as a self contained unit? I.e. can I buy the first season, watch just that, never get future seasons, and not feel like dropping out of the beginning of something?

Anonymous said...

Well, I'll stick with the show because it's summer and nothing else is on. But if this were airing in the fall, I think I would have bailed by now.

I don't really have much to add to everyone else's complaints other than complete agreement. The idea that all of these gorgeous women seem to find Denis Leary irresistible has always been ridiculous, but now the stories don't even make sense. Is Tommy trying to date Nona? Or is he trying to reconcile with Janet? It changes from scene to scene. And until last night there was no mention of it even being a conflict. And I still don't understand the insurance "scam" or why it originally seemed like everyone thought Sheila was dead. Plus, there has never been an explanation for why Sheila and Tommy broke up after the fire other than that they obviously want an excuse to have Leary hook up with more hot chicks.

Anonymous said...

treacher, I really respect Alan's opinion and enjoy reading his comments, especially about shows like Studio 60 and Grey's which rightfully deserve the smackdowns he gives them. However, with Rescue Me, while I think a lot of things don't work (i.e. the short shrift given to the Chief aside from the opening sequence, every woman swooning over Leary, etc.), and it lacks the high quality consistency of The Wire (the greatest show in the history of television) or The Shield, and it is way too melodramtic for its own good sometimes, I still think it remains one of the most watchable shows on TV, especially during the summer months. Aside from the upcoming Mad Men, Damages, and the HBO shows, what else is there to watch this summer?

Kate said...

We were out within a few episodes of "the rape" last season, so you've lasted a lot longer than us. I read your posts on it periodically, and I'm glad we quit when we did.

And dva118--I loved the first season, and I wish I could go back and just have that as a self-contained unit. I can't remember exactly how it ended, but I think you could watch it on its own.

velvetcannibal said...

Re: Rick on the toxic air

Now THAT would have been a great storyline for the Chief to go out on, and it would have been a way to bring the story back to its roots. If the Chief had developed lung problems at the end of last year and wasted away over the course of this season, it could have had plenty of emotional resonance. Also, that's a death that would spring organically, and I would even buy an actual suicide by the Chief if he was in the end stages of a debilitating lung disease caused by his work on 9/11. If only!

Edward Copeland said...

I could tell from the preview of last night's episode this was going to be the case, so I quit the show after the episode where Jerry put his gun in his mouth. Sounds as if I made the right choice.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't be happier. After the rape...no, Tolan, having Tommy Gavin put air quotes around 'rape' doesn't make it rough sex...as I said, after the rape on this show was dismissed by Tolan, I dismissed this show.

I'm happy to see that so many others have as well.

Yes, Tolan, you and Leary ARE misogynists.

jim treacher said...

"Well, now we know what it takes for Treacher to give up on a show."

Yeah, not liking it anymore. That usually does the trick.

jim treacher said...

"Aside from the upcoming Mad Men, Damages, and the HBO shows, what else is there to watch this summer?"

I'm enjoying Burn Notice and Doctor Who. But yeah, that's about it. Been catching up on my reading.

Stacie said...

Interesting that so many of you quit watching awhile back but still respond here. One of the reasons Tommy is so messed up is that he's basically passive - he just lets things happen around him and to him, and he is constantly trying to clean up messes and catch up with his surroundings. Also, this season it's interesting to watch him cope with life without alcohol and sex. Finally, maybe in real life gorgeoous women wouldn't swoon over a guy who looks like him, but I can guarantee that many women love a smart ass, which he most certainly is.

curious george said...

Well, the Jennifer Esposito plotline is ridiculous, as Alan points out. Either Leary would go for her or ignore her. None of this silly nonsense.

SJ said...

I'm with you Alan. This show is completely disjointed...great opening (and Tommy telling Sean why Chief was brave), but it was just out-of-sorts from there.

Leary and Tolan really have run out of ideas...plus where are all of Tommy's demons?? Has he forgotten about his dead cousin/brother/son?

Jason said...

I can't believe you guys lasted this long. I bailed midway through the second season. "Rescue Me" is a show with its heart in the wrong place.

Anonymous said...

So you think it should be a comedy & abandon the drama, but you also want them to get rid of Uncle Teddy & Ritchie. You can't have it both ways. They are typically the comic relief of the show (besides a few comments from Lou or Garrity).

Steven said...

"while I think a lot of things don't work (i.e. the short shrift given to the Chief aside from the opening sequence, every woman swooning over Leary, etc.), and it lacks the high quality consistency of The Wire (the greatest show in the history of television) or The Shield, and it is way too melodramtic for its own good sometimes ..."

I think it's telling that the above was written by one of the only people here who seem to still like the show. It reminds me of an old story told about the baseball player Bill Terry ... I think it was Dizzy Dean who said "Could be that he's a nice guy when you get to know him, but why bother?"

Rescue Me has always been good-not-great ... as anonymous notes, it's no Wire or Shield ... so it has to maintain as high a level as possible, or it will become unwatchable. A bad episode of The Wire ... ok, there's no such thing ... a bad episode of The Shield is mediocre, a bad episode of Rescue Me is bad. There are too many bad episodes these days.

Chris said...

The Chief got the short end of the stick, I agree. Flushing him down the toilet is quite a metaphor that seems to fit within the context of the characters and how they think - while almost breaking the fourth wall as a disgraceful way to send off Jack McGee, if the rumors are true.

While I don't think the show is as good as prior seasons, Tommy's gone through so much in such a relatively short period of time that it seems almost like dark comedy.

While Andy Sipowicz weathered the loss of his wife, son and partner, plus dealt with serious alcoholism and racism-related issues, but this was over many, many more seasons.

While the show does suffer from too many self-aggrandizing Denis Leary monologues, and disjointed storytelling - it's still interesting, very watchable television for me. Lou and company have at least earned enough goodwill with me that even though it's not necessarily great, I still want to see what happens to these characters.

I have so much disdain for most network TV (National Bingo Night makes me want to vomit) - at least Rescue Me's never boring, or predictable which is the instant show kiss of death for me. And I still catch myself laughing out loud at least once a show. Sure the show grinds to a halt when Teddy's on. But Maggie still makes me laugh.

Nona's obsession with Tommy seem irrational? If he's as much of a legend as Troy seems to say, wouldn't Tommy Gavin be a notch on her bedpost? Does it seem weird that Tommy would try to date Nona while semi-reconciling with Janet? Well, he'd always seemed ambivalent about going out with her, and then Nona forced his hand for tonight's date when she repaired his carburetor-free Caddy by threatening to humiliate him in his house to his coworkers.

Leary getting too many glamourous monologues? Scurti seems to get the best jokes.

Is Ritchie a one-note joke? Yes. Is it still an amusing joke for me? Yes. But I also like the idea that he's portrayed as not some stereotypical helpless, useless retarded person, but someone with the same base desires and ability to act on them as all of us.

On the whole, I think television's better off with the show on, rather than off. Last I checked, Rescue Me's never tried to be The Shield (whose consistency over its run has been incredible), and it's not fair to compare it to the long-form lovingly crafted greatest show ever - The Wire - as a dramedy, I feel like Rescue Me still holds its own.

In the interest of full disclosure, I watched Studio 60 all the way through the end. Perhaps I have a soft spot for hard luck cases, I don't know.

BTW, how HOT was Mrs. Merritt in the closet? Andrea Roth in the hotpants? Damn.

dez said...

Last night wasn't great, but it wasn't as bad as some of you are saying, IMHO. I'm looking forward to Probie & Sean living together :-)

Anthony Foglia said...

I'm still sticking with it, but Alan's right, it's gotten a lot worse. The Chief's suicide is going to be this show's shark moment unless things pick up. Worst is that they could have just written Jack McGee out by letting him take the job and letting it be administrative busywork.

Good call about how the scenes aren't connected anymore. The fire scene was amazing, but no repercussions. There was so much possibility to. First Probie seemed to have the best sense of direction of the team, a possible way to show his growth. But it ends with him wandering off alone to get out, not telling anyone, not even the new chief, which should definitely earn some ball-busting from the rest of the crew. But there was nothing. That scene could be placed in any episode in any season and not a thing would need to be changed.

Anyway, I don't think the first season works as a stand-alone story. The ending (mentioned in this episodes) was a cliffhanger. I guess one could just look at it as a depressing, cynical ending, but it could work.

Joe in Haddonfield said...

I just watched half of the episode.
It's not great TV, but it's good. It is summer after all.

Leary's acting has improved marginally.

He did have a great line. In the kitchen while they were debating the chief's cowardice for killing himself, Leary says, "he didn't have any more 'brave' left." I know I'm probably paraphrasing and butchering, but it was a nice line.

Leary could have worn real pants to the funeral, not jeans.

hman said...

WOW....what a bunch of over anylizing crap! Just enjoy the show for what it is.....a dark comedy....or quit watching. Most of the posters sound like the the title of the past episode..."pussified". It's a freakin' summer show.....relax have a cold one and enjoy it for what it is, not what you think/want it to be.

Anonymous said...

Rescue Me is still a great show, haters, so much better than the sub-par 3rd season :)