Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rescue Me: Take it to the bank

Slightly premature spoilers (so don't read 'em till 11 p.m. or so Eastern) for "Rescue Me" coming up just as soon as I hide all my flatware...

Why do I continue to watch and write about a show where I can barely tolerate the main character, where I can't decide whether the writing of the female characters is misogynist or just incompetent, where all the dramatic storylines have become a complete mess?

I watch because of scenes like the kitchen table discussion of the spank bank, that's why. Because even when "Rescue Me" is fumbling everything else it does, the show is still comedy gold when it's just the guys in the kitchen, preferably (as Lou points out) started by Garrity or Mike using the phrase, "Hey guys, can I ask you something?"

I don't understand Sheila's insurance scheme -- Why not just tell the truth, while maybe omitting the RoHypnol stuff? -- nor do I care about the outcome. I'm not interested in Colleen running away to live with her rock singer boyfriend, nor any of the other semi-serious elements working through last week's episode and this one, but dammit this show can still bring the funny when it wants to.

Not sure whether I laughed more at Lou moving quickly to hide the knives at Sean's mention of Janet being in his spank bank, or at Sean's look of abject terror when Tommy suggests Colleen might be in the bank as well, but that was just a gem of a scene.

Some of the other comedy bits were more hit or miss. I liked Lou and Franco brainstorming how to woo Larenz Tate (particularly the "Laugh, put your arm around me like I said something funny" gag), but I thought they wrote Mike a few IQ points too low in his scene with the doctor. Uncle Teddy still feels like he's off in his own show. The scenes with Richie and Franco are usually ridiculous enough to make me ignore just how offensive they are, but the jewelry store scene didn't go far enough.

Still, it was all worth it for the spank bank scene. I admire the attempts to service all the members of their large ensemble, but the show's becoming too disjointed. I go back and occasionally rewatch my DVDs of "The Job," and that was a much tighter show, even if it was less ambitious than "Rescue Me" is. Lately, I'm starting to wish that Leary and Tolan could go back to that format -- if not half-hour, then at least all-comedy.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Alan, usually I'm on board with most of your thoughts, but I think you're being a bit harsh on this show.

I thought tonight's episode was a little broad, and some of the dramatic elements do feel repetitive. But I think it's been mentioned here before that the show usually hits its stride around the midpoint, and all the previous slack is forgiven. I've never gotten to the end of a season and felt let down.

In the meantime, all the actors are compelling enough, in my opinion, to chew the scenery regardless of a sloppy plot line here or an underwritten character arc there. I could listen to Dennis Leary read a history text and be entertained, and the rest of the house together is really fantastic. Even the seen with Mike and the doctor, though he did come off a bit dense, was able to mix a "serious" element with a crack like "Babe Ruth died of cancer"... and in the context of the show, the more dramatic elements are needed so the dark comedy can exist.

Rescue Me is not a perfect show, but its not meant to be. It isnt about perfect people, and it isnt trying to be the next Sopranos, but its a hell of a lot of fun to watch in the break between the soap opera network garbage that will pop up again in September. Give me Rescue Me over 90% of everything else any week.

Anonymous said...

I think the melodramatic "serious" stuff is integral to what makes the show work. The thing that makes this show the most ballsy out there is its willingness to take very serious tragic plot developments and stand them side-by-side with comedy bits, often in the same scene. The scene with the doctor is an example of that. You're not expecting that doctor to make the quip about Babe Ruth in that situation. Another example is last season when Tommy gets his hand stuck in his brother's coffin.

Anonymous said...

This review reminds me of the old Woody Allen critique: "I like the earlier, funnier ones."

Alan Sepinwall said...

See, but I preferred the earlier "Rescue Me"s when the serious stuff was better. Some of my favorite episodes are the ones that mixed comedy and tragedy, like season one's "Inches" (where Tommy's crew loses a man and the guys have a contest to see who's, um, biggest.)

I just feel like Leary and Tolan have either run out of things to do on the dramatic side or have mostly lost their command of that material. There are occasional exceptions, like a storyline in next week's episode involving Chief Reilly, but they're becoming fewer and farther between.

Anonymous said...

I actually totally agree with you, Alan. The show is still capable of being funny, but the dramatic portion is severely lacking.

I think part of the problem is that in 3 seasons they've already done every tragedy possibly imagineable. Worse, the outcome is always the same: Tommy gets drunk, pisses off those around him, leaves the firehouse, sleeps with a psycho, then ends up back at work and back with Janet. Every. Single. Time.

And I think the writing of the female characters is mysogonistic AND incompetent. And worse, it's redundant. Every woman is mentally unstable and hopelessly in love with Tommy. It's enough to make me want to start drinking, quit my job, sleep around, then get my job back and get back together with my ex.

Anonymous said...

While I'm not as dissappointed with this show as others, I do feel that it has lost some of its dramatic element that made it so good in seasons 1 & 2.

The prime example of this for me is the plot line with Mike's mother. From the previews, it looks like they decided to make the whole thing a joke about Mike being a crybaby instead of looking dramatically about the decision to help someone end their life without suffering.

In season 1 or 2, characters like Mike or Garrity were still given serious plot lines but now it seems they have been reduced to punchlines. I can only hope that the previews were just off and the storyline is actually better but since I haven't seen Mike be serious in a long time, it still seems forced to make him a "real" person again.

I still love this show more than pretty much everything else on TV, but I want it to kick it up a notch instead of slowly becoming another average show that I stick with because I loved the beginning so much (a la Scrubs).

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention, the look on Janet's face after the youngest daughter (Katie maybe?) called the new baby Puke Face was hilarious.

Edward Copeland said...

I'm starting to question whether I should keep with the show or not as well. The insurance scheme isn't making much sense to me at all. He took out a life insurance policy but they know Sheila's alive, so that's not an issue. Given Tommy's past, when he was rescued, would they have not taken blood samples and found traces of the roofies? Franco's girlfriend's brother is getting real old real fast. (Can't you already see where this is headed? They will get the black probie for the basketball team, he'll call him the N word and then they'll lose him) I'm still watching, but I'm getting closer to calling this a show and being done with it.

Anonymous said...

I'm still not clear on how Sheila's insurance scam is supposed to work, nor am I totally convinced that she's alive (she and Tommy are both being pursued by the respective fireman/woman who rescued them? Really?). OTOH, he did talk to her on the phone, which we haven't seen him do with his ghosts, so...I dunno. It's confusing. And stupid. Gimme more spank bank scenes any day!

Anonymous said...

Edward, if they don't go the route you're suggesting with the brother and the new probie, I'll be very surprised. It sure seems like that's where they're headed, bleah.

Anonymous said...

"I don't understand Sheila's insurance scheme."

I haven't finished all of the third season, but I've seen most of it, read about it, and seen the first two episodes of this season, so I have a decent understanding of the scam. However, if memory serves me correctly, she's trying to get $2 million from the insurance company, while she bought the house for $3 million. So where is the scam? Unless I've got the total she bought the house for wrong, she's actually losing money.

Anonymous said...

she and Tommy are both being pursued by the respective fireman/woman who rescued them? Really?
They touched on this a few times, leading me to believe it's actually a somewhat common occurrence. When Tommy was talking to Sheila about it, he said something along the lines of "Oh, how cliche." Franco also had two (?) women he'd rescued in his spank bank.

SJ said...

If you think about it they have exhausted just about everything when it comes to the dramatic storylines:

-Tommy losing his son/cousin/co-workers/brother. What else can shock us now?

-Tommy getting off the wagon.

-Chief having a heart attack, his wife losing her mind, his son being gay.

-Franco losing his gf (2nd season), losing his daughter to a crazy woman.

There really isn't that much that they can do now, but it's still highly entertaining.

Also, I love how Tommy mentioned Ellen indication that he has been watching too much daytime TV.

D. Bones said...

I also only liked the one scene with the guys eating dinner. I hardly watched this episode while doing other things. Not a single storyline is gripping. Or funny.

The retarded brother character has to go.

Tatum O'Neal needs to learn that her giant collection of pornography is called porn, not porno. A porno is a pornographic movie (which gets its pronunciation from the way that ajective uses a long o, as opposed to a pornography collection, which has that "a in father" sound). It's singular. No one who loves porn would refer to a bunch of it as porno. Leary must know this, so I suppose this is just another example of a peculiar dig at another female character's cluelessness.

And the artificial baby they are using for the newest Gavin? Creepy. Pay for an infant actor for chrissakes. That little wrinkled doll isn't alive, no matter how much you bounce it in your arms or add mewling noises during post production.