Thursday, June 21, 2007

'She could really debate": Rescue Me

It's a bit of a shame that Rescue Me is being greeted with such apathy by the critical community for its fourth season. But, then again, it's hardly surprising (and it's pretty legitimate). Rape controversy aside, the season was somewhat lackluster in its midsection, with storylines going nowhere and a bunch of just odd plot developments.

I've seen the first three episodes (thanks Todd!), and while there are cool moments in the first two (along with a couple dull plot strings), the third episode is really where some actual PLOT THINGS like, y'know, happen. Still, I pretty much enjoyed yesterday and last week's episodes ("Babyface" and "Tuesday"), especially the comic side of things. While Denis Leary and Peter Tolan can lay a claim to writing some of the most visceral stuff on TV, it's always been the firehouse banter where this show truly succeeds. The running story about the courting the talented basketball player probie had Lou running up some great quips (I figure that dude is gonna be prominent, cause I think he's played by Larenz Tate of Crash). Even better was the spank-bank conversation in ep 2, where Garrity blurted out Tommy's wife Janet's name as cast member in his mind-porn. Tommy's fury was amusing enough (even though he's kinda all-bark no-bite these days), but Sean's horrified attempts to cover his tracks had me on the floor. A few moments like that every episode, and I'm still sold.

In fact, these two eps showcased Steven Pasquale, who's really just gotten funnier and funnier every season. Garrity always gets great material, but I think this could be the season that really showcases the guy. Think about it: every year of Rescue Me has always been like a long Emmy tape for one of its supporting actors. Last year was the booze and misery-soaked, but still bleakly hilarious Lou (John Scurti); the year before it was the Chief (Jack McGee), wrestling with his wife's Alzheimer's and co-habiting with his gay son; in the first season...well I guess Franco and his kid? Anyway, Sean's constantly unpredictable marriage to hellraiser Maggie is gonna be the highlight of this season, so say I. It's something about his righteous indignation that quickly transforms into blind terror when he tries to stand up to Maggie (or to Tommy, for that matter). The spank-bank stuff was the best, but his porn plot with Maggie in episode was just about as sweet as this show gets.

There's still a lot of problems here though. Chief among them is Janet. Not to sound cruel or anything, but this show has such a high body count as it is, why can't they just off her? She has literally been tiresome since the pilot--a sniping, demanding, unfunny series of plot devices that Tommy, for some reason or another, seems to still adore. The latest development, in which the whole family lives together but all kinda hate each other, is possibly the most annoying the show has ever devised. Tommy's bitching at his daughter can be amusing enough (I've always thought the younger one was funnier), but with Janet in the mix, especially looking all tired and pissed at her new baby that hates her, there's just this pall over all the domestic scenes. Really hoping for a development there.

The other plots are mostly serviceable but feel a little stally. Siletti's plot with his dying mom gets a nice showcase next week, but I bet that's all just gonna send him into some black spiral of depression. It happens to a few of the firefighters every year, and I think his number's up again. The girl that Franco's supposedly in love with barely registers to me, and her Tourette's-afflicted brother was a one-joke machine that wore thin by the end of last year (figure Susan Sarandon's gonna show up and stir all that up--there's no way they're leaving that story alone!). While Uncle Teddy is always amusing, he better start doing relevant things again (or at least show up on Tommy's radar a little more often), cause otherwise they should just spin off him and Charles Durning to a new FX show called "crazy old men bickering!". Finally, there's Callie Thorne as the irrepressible Sheila. I wish I could just lie back enjoy her super-vampy, super-campy strutting, but the character has become so ridiculous that it's all I can do during her scenes not to fast-forward. Every episode, she progresses from a being a cool-headed, manipulative minx into a screaming, Tommy-obsessed harpy in about 2 minutes, then back again. It's literally tiring just to watch it. If she calmed down and became more of a floating, background character who occasionally snipes at Tommy, like she was for most of season three, I'd be perfectly happy. But all this stuff about insurance fraud...ugh.

Anyway, ep three is pretty good, and it has a big TWIST that I'll be discussing next week, so I'm sure I'll see you all there. Don't give up now, folks. Rescue Me. It's still worth it. I promise.


Todd VanDerWerff said...

I will probably never stop watching this show as long as it does the scenes in the firehouse kitchen as well as it does. That spank bank scene was almost perfect.

I'm mostly out of love with the other elements of the show (particularly all of the female characters -- and you didn't say anything about Esposito, so there you go), but I'll keep watching for the expert comedy.

David Sims said...

My jury is out on Esposito for now. She figures into ep 3 more so I'll mention her then, but she could easily go either way IMO. I don't have a bad opinion of the character currently.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not there are dangling plot lines in this series, what critics need realize is that this show is one of the strongest attempts brought forth to imitate life. Life does not involve a beginning, a middle, a climax, and a resolution every week--it involves a person, the conflicts brought unto that person and the resultant decisions he or she makes in response to them. Rescue Me is absolutely brilliant in every respect of the word, and those who call it out for its rape scene (which, as all of you true Rescue Me fans know, was not a rape at all, but a much more interpersonal conflict being resolved by two mutually consenting characters) or its shortcomings in plot need to take a step back and just TRY to spot the heart flooding out of every person who ever spoke a single line on the show.