Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Rescue Me, "Control": Bad old Tommy

Spoilers for tonight's "Rescue Me" coming up just as soon as I absorb a muffin...
"I'm not an alcoholic." -Tommy
I feel like I may have to spend the rest of this season -- and maybe the series (unless the stress of producing 22 episodes in a year leads them all to give up the ghost after this) -- prefacing each review with a list of the things I'm trying to ignore so I can enjoy the good stuff. For "Control," that list would have to include the Teddy stuff in the VA hospital(*) and most of the stuff with Sheila.

(*) Actually, I think I'm done with that storyline, which has nothing to do with the show, always ends with the cheapest and most obvious punchline, and is just an excuse to keep Lenny Clarke (and Tatum O'Neal) hanging around. Somebody let me know if/when it starts tying back into the main story again, if ever, so I know if I should stop fast-forwarding through it.

Sheila's attempt to control Tommy's drinking was moderately less annoying than her seduction of him last week, but it still feels like her great monologue about 9/11 was just a blip on the radar, and she and Janet are back to being characters the writers don't know what to do with except make as broadly comic and hateful as possible. And that's a shame, because Callie Thorne showed that she's capable of so much more.

Speaking of 9/11, I'm starting to worry that we're dropping away from all that material. Sure, there was the joke here about Franco decking the guy he was told hated 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and Sean still has his kidney cancer, but we haven't seen Genevieve in while, have we? (IMDb has Karina Lombard listed as being in the last few episodes -- which, admittedly, I watched a few months ago -- but I don't remember her in them.) It'd be disappointing if this was all of that just a pretext for Tommy's latest fall off the wagon.

That said, the idea of Tommy trying to chart a path between "sober" and "alcoholic" is an interesting one (albeit one that I assume is doomed to failure), and worked well for both comic and dramatic purposes as he dealt with the rest of the firehouse. Those scenes, and the hilarious interludes with Sean and his family (and then the sweet moment where his mom told him about her own cancer scare), were the highlights of an uneven but interesting episode.

And yet, in going over my notes, I keep being pulled back to the negative things. Was anyone really looking for the return of Lou's con artist hooker girlfriend? And wouldn't the idea of Mike finally standing up to Tommy be a lot more interesting if the show didn't constantly arrange to give Tommy the moral high ground? Last week, he was punching out Tommy over a screw-up (Damien in the fire) that he caused himself, and tonight he starts yelling at Tommy right before he panics over the realization that he didn't refill the oxygen tanks. In the moral universe of "Rescue Me," all of Tommy's failings pale before being either a coward or a bumbler as a fireman, so the Mike/Tommy scenes don't have the heft they should.

I said I wasn't going to watch the rest of my screeners (the five episodes after this) in a rush, so it would be easier to blog as if I was watching along with the rest of you. But part of me wants to just dive through them to see if my fears are unfounded. Remember: I didn't like the first couple of episodes this season, but I powered through and got to the good stuff before I lost my patience with the bad.

I have too much else on my plate right now for a mini-marathon, but don't be stunned an episode or two from now to find out I did it, if only so I can know whether I want to keep watching/blogging. I still think the better parts of the show are outweighing the parts I dislike, but as we saw last season (and for large parts of season 4), it's not hard at all for the bad stuff to overwhelm everything else.

What did everybody else think?


J.Sho said...

Am I the only person who doesn't mind Tommy and Sheila together? What else is Sheila going to do? Get a job? Date a non-firefighter? Maybe this latest go-round with Tommy (letting him drink) is in some way his punishment, since there is some blame there. Whatever. I just enjoy the show more when Tommy is drinking and getting laid. As for the VA storyline, yeah it sucks, but I love uncle Teddy. I do wish he would have a better storyline. My favorite was in season one with Tommy's dad and the hookers.

olucy said...

I thought tonight was a bit of a snoozefest, but I *did* like the mother-son scene.

Paul Allor said...

I'm glad to hear the Teddy/VA scenes are no good ... I realized about three seconds in to the first one that I wouldn't enjoy it, and have been zipping past them on my DVR ever since.

fuzzydunlop said...

I agree. Tommy and Sheila are entertaining. What else do you expect? Overall, the sh*t is funny. I'm going into it knowing that it isn't going to be some PC family-friendly fare. Yeah, season 4 sucked, but can't you give it the benefit of the doubt? Why do you hate it so much? It's funny and I love Tommy. Note: this is not Denis Leary.

Oaktown Girl said...

What a waste of the Tatum O'Neal character. I think her character is interesting, and she does an excellent job acting when they give her something interesting to do. But sex with the patients? Please.

I haven't investigated who all exactly is on the Rescue Me writing staff, but maybe the biggest problem with the female characters on this show is a lack of female writers.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed the first claustrophobic scene where it became clear that the situation Tommy and Mike were in was more dangerous than they assumed. I was sort of rooting for someone to be badly injured right off the bat just to shake things up, a la The Sopranos, but of course they were able to get out of it. And when I was watching the ep I accidentally skipped to the end of the episode without realizing it while it was on the DVR, so I thought the last montage was the next scene after the opening commercials, which I thought was another great scene (Tommy saying he had his drinking under control and then drinking a lot.) Unfortunately the rest of the episode was very "m'eh", the only subplot that was remotely interesting was Garrity's family.

I've been trying to figure out where this season is going, and the only theory I can think of is that Tommy will have yet another person in his life die at the end (it's happened at the end of every season since season two). Does that mean Garrity will die? Or someone more unexpected, like Shiela or Janet? I feel like there's still a lot of potential here but the show also has a tendency to meander this season. I can't tell if its because of the extended length of the season or just plain lazy writing. Either way, I'll probably keep watching (unless there are any more clunker episodes, in which I'll just watch FX's 3 minute replay instead, which came in handy for the Tommy and Janet road-trip ep.)

erin said...

@J.Sho--I kind of agree about Sheila and Tommy. Yes, it feels like its been done on the series before, but without Crazy Sheila, it's not nearly as unpleasant as its been in the past.

The rest of it was ok. I liked the opening scene, and how even though tommy is losing it in some ways because of the drinking, his experience still trumps everything else and he's great at his job. ALthough knowing the guys will be talking at the firehouse later says that the stakes are pretty low in the fire scenes.

Still like the Sean stuff, and his mom bonding with him at the end. However, I don't have any faith that Janet/Sheila won't flip out in the upcoming episodes...*sigh*

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

I, too, feel like they're getting farther and farther away from what made the earlier episodes interestuing--the refocus on 9/11. The writers really don't seem to know what to do with the women characters, and they are all so stereotypical. I hope they get away from the "everyone throwing herself at Tommy" line soon--it's the weakest part of the series. Well, maybe along with the VA hospital stuff, but we've seen so much more of every good looking female drawn soooo muich to Tommy. It's just not at all realistic.

Jonathan Toomey said...


I think you mentioned previously that you haven't watched all the eps that FX sent out yet. I went ahead and viewed them all, and in an attempt to not give anything away, as ridiculous as the Teddy/Maggie plot has been thus far, it does tie back in eventually. Stick with it.

Jonathan, "TV Squad"

Tommykey said...

I agree about the VA hospital thing. I saw the dying guy making rude remarks to his son he hadn't seen in 25 years from a mile away.

The sex with Janet and Sheila is getting annoying too. I guess I just don't get what either of them see in Tommy. It's getting to be tiresome, as these two characters alternate between hating him and wanting to sleep with him.

As for Candy, I was always hoping they would bring her back just so that Lou could get some form of revenge on her, or at least get some catharsis from chewing her out for what she did to him. But I have a bad feeling he is being set up to take another fall by her.

dez said...

It would be great to see Lou resist Candy, but I also fear she's setting him up and he'll fall for it.

As far as Sheila's concerned, I'm interested in seeing what her attempt to control Tommy leads to. Perhaps it is revenge, perhaps something else. I hope it's not just another Crazy Sheila story because that would ba-low.

The scene with Sean and his mom was wonderful. I'm looking forward to more of their interaction after his surgery.

Anonymous said...

I'm with qualler; ever since season 3, I've felt the writers get lazy when working on certain episodes. This was one of them.

As great as it is to see Garrity in a serious light (for once...amazingly we didn't really see him in that role when he was married to Maggie), they have to revert to a few lines to remind us that he's such an intellectual lightweight. That rubbed me the wrong way.

Same with Mike. I think they could have built off the end of last week's episode by putting him into a more serious role, but yet again, we're reminded at what a doofus he is. Alan's description about Tommy having to be put in the higher moral ground position was quite apt.

The Sheila/Janet/Tommy angle is unrealistic on about every possible level, but I have a hard time believing that Damian is so accepting of it. I think the writers didn't think this one through very well. It could have been handled much better IMO (ie - Damian secretly finding out, and harboring below the surface rage/hate etc...I dunno).

It also strikes me odd that the boys in the house will be so accepting of Tommy falling off the wagon. Tommy Gavin was/is a hardcore alcoholic. It made a complete mess of his personal life, and has affected his professional life negatively in the past. They're going to be so hunky-dory that he's drinking again because he claimed he can control it? Riiiiiighhhttt!

I've found that the worst episodes are when the storylines are forced too hard to be a hybrid of pure comedy and overwhelming drama. The show just cannot pull it off, on a consistent basis. What we usually end up having are a glut of episodes that are little more than unrealistic trash.


Mr Whirly said...

I'm late on this but the last two eps have destroyed
Any hope that I had for this season redeemning the last two.
The women of Rescue Me are badly written. They should watch
A few episodes of Mad Men to see how it can be done correctly.

Being from Boston, I am compelled to love Lenny Clahk, and I do, but he is wasted here and I never liked Tatum O'Neil.
The character identities just seem to be randomly chosen. Suddenly Janet is a weak woman who just wants sex?
Suddenly Mike is smart and strong (except when he's dumb - which is it?)
Garrity is smarter now too, except when he, too, is amazingly stupid.

Don't know if it was this episode but, didn't we all see Franco getting knocked out by the old guy coming from 10,000 miles away?

It is sad. My wife won't let me fast forward but, let me tewll you, Bruce the shark is getting his Air Jordans on in the dressing room.