Saturday, November 26, 2005

My thoughts on Denis Leary's Rescue Me

Ok - I've been meaning to blog about this show for a while.

It's actually quite funny - normally Denis Leary, who can be horribly crude and occasionally sexist, isn't the type of comic/actor who appeals to me. But there's something about him that just captures me. Maybe it's the wounded little boy hiding behind the machismo. Maybe it's his no-holds-barred attitude towards everything. I don't know.

He's been on my radar for years - Sean and I would watch him on Dennis Miller's old show (NOT the MSNBC one) and have seen him on Jon Stewart's amazing Daily Show. He's well-spoken and straightforward in an interview, able to discuss a variety of topics. Obviously an intelligent man, despite his potty mouth *g*.

But it's his tv shows that really appeal. First there was The Job. Set in a police station, it followed the lives of Mike (Leary's character) and his fellow detectives. But it's not your typical police show - it's irreverent, fun, serious, touching and engrossing. I'm not kidding. You get sucked right in. And most of the time you hate Mike, but every once in a while, he does something that makes you think maybe he can be redeemed. Because of its extreme nature (language, violence, some nudity) it didn't last long on network tv. The series finale is probably the best show - Mike gets the tables turned on him but good - but I won't say any more, because you can now get it on DVD and I don't want to spoil the surprise.

Rescue Me picked up on the spirit of The Job, but with a special twist. In this show, Leary plays Tommy, a firefighter, who sees ghosts. He's haunted by his late cousin, a firefighter who died in the Twin Towers. This character is close to Leary's heart - a cousin and friend died fighting a warehouse fire in Massachusetts in 2000. In response, Leary set up The Leary Firefighters Foundation.

Just like Mike, Tommy is quite a character - he and his wife have a very troubled marriage, he battles a drinking problem and sleeps with his late cousin's widow. At one point his drinking is such a problem, his job is threatened. Leary plays Tommy with such exquisite craft it's incredible. He has an edge, yet that vulnerability I glimpsed in Mike is in full view with Tommy - yet also hidden (hard to explain - you'll have to watch for yourself). One scene from Season One that gripped me was an opening one in which you see Tommy on his knees talking to a little girl trapped in a fire as they wait for backup. When the others arrive they pull her out and he asks how she is. They look at him like he's nuts - it's obvious to them she's been dead for a while, yet Tommy is convinced she was talking to him.

The final two shows of this season were incredible. A tragedy affects the family and with music playing and no spoken lines the actors convey what's going on - Leary's face as he confirms something for his character's wife just about tore my heart out. I was sitting there with tears running down my cheeks by the end. And the finale shows the nuances of Tommy's character and his internal battle with what he wants to do and what he knows is right.

Many of the actors from The Job appear on Rescue Me. The supporting cast and secondary storylines are equally impressive. Leary tackles any number of social issues in his own way and examines the continuing effect of September 11th on the firefighters of NYC.

All in all, a show worth watch. But be warned - it's on cable, not network, so there's a fair amount of crude language and violence, while Tommy's relationship with Sheila is shown very graphically.

Ok - I'd best get on with my clean-up now!


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