Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rescue Me: Burnin' love

"Rescue Me" spoilers start immediately after this...

As I was watching the finale, I was taking notes on my computer, and here is exactly what I typed as Sheila went into the kitchen to fix Tommy another drink:
Oh, God, she's again crushing the roofies into his drink? NO! NO! NO! NO!
Dammit, not even "Grey's Anatomy" or David E. Kelley have the ability to make me as angry at a show I otherwise love. How can they be as brilliant as they are in moments like Tommy telling Stack to let go or the visit to the 9/11 memorial tonight and then do stupid shit like having Sheila go for the RoHypnol AGAIN? And to trot out a cliffhanger that, while it fits as a bookend with Tommy's dream in the season premiere, is a classically phony Hero in Jeopardy stunt that even Leary and Tolan admitted the audience would see through. A conference call excerpt, after a reporter asked why they would do that if the audience knows Tommy won't die:
LEARY: "Because it's television."

TOLAN: "There's always an element of false jeopardy in a cliffhanger because you know we're not going to kill Tommy -- probably. But the question is, 'What is it going to get you for next season?' And we thought about this, and we're going to have a lot of fun with what gives us."

LEARY: "Don't forget: when a person on this show dies, their part only gets bigger."
Look, you drug Franco or Garrity or even, God help us, Lou, and trap them in a burning beach house, and I can picture the possibility that they could die, or get scarred or crippled or whatever. But Tommy's going to emerge physically unscathed -- how is he going to maintain his supernatural ability to bag hot women otherwise? -- and even if Sheila dies, I won't exactly mourn the loss of the poster girl for how horribly this show usually writes women.

And yet the show that can be so predictable -- they barely even bothered with the pretense that the squad was going to break up -- and annoying and self-indulgent at times can also give us bits like:
  • The entire flashback sequence, which was done so slyly (with Tommy staying in modern costume and there never being an obvious edit) that at first I thought Reilly was going senile when he was calling Franco "Probie" (it wasn't until Jimmy and Lou's Red Sox argument that I figured it out);
  • Chief Pecher (nicely played by Tolan) walking in on Garrity and Maggie humping away in his office ("I had a magazine..."), and also his random singing of "Poor Wandering One" from "Pirates of Penzance";
  • Tommy's rant about his sperm having "ant strength";
  • Mike's "Guys, I think I'm not bi anymore" (predictable, but the way the camera framed it was hysterical);
  • Lou's sadness at seeing Reilly show up at the station in his hospital gown;
  • Lou crawling around on the docks;
  • The entire 9/11 memorial scene, even if, like the scene in the season two finale where they're looking at the skyline, the actors were clearly talking as much to the audience as each other;
  • The whole "Don't look at me, I'm the dead guy" shrug Jimmy gives Tommy before quickly exiting what he knows is going to be a hellacious argument between his best friend and his widow.
I'm not even sure what the origin of the old "girl with the curl" cliche is, but if ever a show fit that description, it's "Rescue Me." When it's good, it's very, very good. And when it's bad, I have to ask myself why I'm even still watching.

Some other quick thoughts and notes:
  • On the call, Leary also said that Tommy's karmic payback for The Incident (or, as Tolan described it, "Tommy's thing with Janet") wasn't Sheila raping him, or Johnny's death, or even him getting trapped in the fire. "It doesn't happen until sometime in the middle of season four, but it's coming." I dunno; I have a feeling that Sheila raping him was intended to be the payback, and when the audience didn't buy into it, they changed their story.
  • Even after all the contortions to keep the rest of the guys in the house, is there any chance they might actually follow through with that Chief/Lou scene and get rid of Jack McGee next year? And, if so, what type of character might you like to see as the new chief, since I know Tolan's not moving to New York full time to play Pecher? Also, since they've talked about adding a new Probie, what kind of character do you want to see there? (I liked Tolan's suggestion in our interview of it being a super-capable woman -- straight or lesbian, I don't care -- who forces the guys to reassess a lot of the macho BS that chased away the Diane Farr character.)
  • I wasn't really feeling either of the precocious kid scenes, whether it was Katie playing with Tommy on the definition of sperm or Keelah's "Did you try your best?" speech to Franco. I don't know about Tolan, but I know Leary has two kids, and those two scenes felt off to me.
  • Where does Jimmy get off calling Tommy's 5'2" conquest a midget when Sheila's lucky she's that tall in heels?
And that's it for me on this show this season. I can only hope the good "Rescue Me" outweighs the bad again next summer, but I know I'm going to be there, regardless.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you felt about this week the way I felt about last week. The last two episodes have seemed stagey and forced to me. The Ground Zero thing... It was heartfelt, but preachy. Those guys just don't talk like that the rest of the time.

Was that really a flashback sequence at the beginning? It felt more like a walking daydream. He was really there, remembering the stuff that happened, and then there was a fire and time to wake up.

And hey, good thing Franco caught his daughter 3 whole minutes before she flew off to France, huh? Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Wait. Rescue me was on last night? What time? TiVo didn't even pick it up. Will it air again? I'm confused.

Anonymous said...

There's just something about this show that makes me feel that the sum of its parts should add up to something more than what we have on screen. This show has all the components needed to be a top three show, but it manages to miss out. Maybe because it choses to begin to explore potentially rich themes (e.g. Lou losing hope after getting burned by the hooker), and then lets the exploration devolve into a junior-high joke (e.g. Lou having sex with a nun).

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jim, toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe, I say on flashback vs. dream.

Wallwriting, you're dead on about the show's pattern of backing out of potentially interesting storylines with a cheap joke. As I said in my review of the season two finale, "But then there are the moments where you start to wonder whether 'Rescue Me' is written by people willing to go into the dark place but not stay there for very long."

I love the show's cheap humor a lot of the time, and I love the darkness. But it felt like they had a much better handle on how to blend them both back in season one, especially in "Inches" (the episode where Billy died and won the dick-measuring contest posthumously).

Matter-Eater Lad said...

I was surprised that Franco didn't think to have Richard take the lieutenant's exam for him.

Anonymous said...

Same here, Chris, though he couldn't really risk one of Richard's outbursts (plus I'm sure there would be at least one guy there who knows Franco and would know that wasn't him).

I liked the finale. I liked that Tommy didn't cave in to Janet about having her move back in (at least for now!). I liked the cliffhanger. I like the idea that Sheila might die or that Tommy might wind up with another scar. I'll be back next season, definitely.

BTW, in Sheila's scheme for getting Tommy away from the firehouse and with her forever, did she ever factor in where her son would live? He seems to have been left out of her little love equation. So she's not just a crazy lovesick bird, but a bad mother, too. Bah.

Edward Copeland said...

The cliffhanger was ridiculous. It felt like we had suddenly fallen into Dallas, though even no character on Dallas would have drugged another character to take advantage of them sexually. The opening flashback was well done and I hoped for a moment that perhaps the finale was going to have more of that. John Scurti though is the show's standout. I'd love to see him somehow manage an Emmy nomination next year if the idiots at the Academy can figure out how to actually come up with a decent slate of nominees and winners. Franco's entire story this year with his daughter seemed truncated, as if they had to go that route because they could only get Sarandon for a few episodes. Speaking of guest stars, shouldn't Marisa Tomei have come back for Johnny's funeral last week, even if she was his ex?

Anonymous said...

"When Leary and Tolan first drafted this show, was it an intentional decision to never have a normal continuing female character?"

Who's the normal continuing male character?

Anonymous said...

Franco would never use a ringer on the exam; like all the guys, he understands that firefighting is life and death, and he wouldn't put himself in the position of being someplace he wasn't qualified for.

John Rogers, a TV writer who blogs as/at Kung Fu Monkey, reports that the jargon for stuff like "Will Tommy die?" when it's Tommy's show is "schmuck bait'.

Finally, the more I am forced to think about the Keelah plot the more I hate it. I know Franco himself doesn't have legal custody, but his daughter has been kidnapped by a crazy woman who insists on raising this child because it's better for the child in a vague psychological way, and Franco's decided that's ok enough with him that he's going to let it stand. Bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Well last week when I commented that I adore this show but it is testing my patience, I got lambasted by 'anonymous' (very brave)
I haven't even minded that the females where useless and laughable; that was kind of the point, right?
I agree about the Ground Zero scene; it didn't really seem to fit, other than an excuse for the guys to come clean to each other about their future plans.And the Franco goodbye scene with his daughter; give me a break. So Alicia steals the kid and then sends her to France;what the-?
I am still so enamored with these hard to love characters. I just wish I could buy their story arcs this season. Such fantastic actors; I hope the writers find their groove again next year.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't everyone see that Sheila, if she isn't burned to death, is probably pregnant by Tommy as a result of the drugged rape of him? What else could be payback for Janet in the middle of the next season?

No matter what, the show is great with all its faults and it jumps back from the less then great second season.

elora said...
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elora said...
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elora said...

Resce Me a Safe Haven...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one of the purposes of the fire was to leave us wondering if Sheila survives. I'm inclined to think that this is how the writers intend to inform Tommy that Sheila was slipping roofies (sp?) into his drink. Both of them will go to the hospital, and the doctors will probably run a tox screen on the characters. That is when they will find evidence of the drug in Tommy's system and he will learn that Sheila gave him the date rape drug.