STUDIO: Sony Home Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98
RUNNING TIME: 571 Minutes

  • "Behind the Hose"
  • "Behind the Smoke" – Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
  • "Being Denis Leary"
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Fighting Fires in a Vertical City
  • Gag Reel
  • "Going to the Gay Place"
  • Location Tour
  • Rescue Me Comedy Short
  • Rescue Me Season 4 Preview
  • "The Bravest Traditions"

The Pitch

The men who fight fire in New York’s tenements continue to have relationship problems, dependency problems, addiction problems, identity problems, and problems of every other size and shape.

The Humans

Denis Leary. John Scurti. Stephen Pasquale. Callie Thorne. Jack McGee. Andrea Roth. Charles Durning. Daniel Sunjata. Lenny Clarke. Mike Lombardi.

Gary would go to drastic measures just for the slightest chance to become the next Mrs. Paul McCartney.

The Nutshell

The first two seasons of Rescue Me (my season one review) were terrific. The first season introduced the cadre of brave men [and a woman!] who were left in the wake of the World Trade Center’s collapse and the many folks in uniform it took with it. Denis Leary’s Tommy Gavin at the center of the dysfunction not only had to contend with the loss of those he loved and the numerous relationship issues around him but also the presence of some of the dearly departed, who spoke to him as ghosts or hallucinations. Often critcally.

The show’s balance of bleakness, humor, and honest-to-goodness patriotism somehow manages to work like a charm even when it wades into often tread topics like alcoholism, absentee parenting, divorce, and the loss of loved ones. The show, primarily Gavin’s own sphere of influence, truly is a microcosm of the Hell on Earth we all come into contact with from time to time. The second season upped the ante with more depth, more conflict, and a serious downer of an ending. Just when you thought Tommy Gavin’s life couldn’t get more cloudy.

And for once and for all, Denis Leary puts the Bill Hicks comparisons to bed.

The third season is about recovery and loss, dealing with change, and how some people just refuse to take the easy way out even if it means their own personal happiness. Of course, it’s just as happy to showcase a bunch of great male actors being guys in the most base and raunchy way possible on regular cable. In other words, more of what makes this show so phenomenal.

The Lowdown

Denis Leary and Peter Tolan have become two of the strongest voices on television, something that may seem odd on the surface but looking at Tolan’s track record and the quality of their The Job, it becomes less mired. Leary’s far from the one-trick pony that Bill Hicks fans paint him as and Tolan’s been doing it well for a very long time. That said, Rescue Me is still quite a relevation. The humor is what grabs you, a very wickedly funny and character driven sort that provides more actual laughs than most comedies. The actors are so deft, primarily Scurti, Leary, and Pasquale, that the drama and emotional fireworks could be removed and the show would have merit. Scurti and Pasquale absolutely own their characters and it’ll be hard to watch them in any other roles without longing for their working class shenanigans. Scurti gets to explore some darkness this season and though his situation with his former wife and subsequent sex scam in the previous year had darker moments, he’s at rock bottom here. Here’s an actor who can do a lot with very little and though I expected Scurti to once again be my favorite character it’s Pasquale who steps to the front. Handed a rather trite ongoing subplot involving a relationship with Gavin’s looney sister (played by Tatum O’Neal, looking a little like a blonde and road weary version of Catherine Keener), he simply could have just been "the dumb guy" but he adds so much nuance to the character that he is a joy to watch. These two guys counterbalance Leary’s caustic but also pitch perfect Tommy. Lenny Clarke and Charles Durning add some levity as the old timers but I feel that their subplots reached their zenith at the end of the second season.

The humor may be what grabs you, but it’s the drama and writing that keep you pinned.

Tommy Jarvis thought EVERYTHING was a Decepticon.

The show got a lot of grief for a scene that is considered a borderline rape, something which is nullified totally by the way the woman reacts and is spurred on by the aggressive act. It’s a sensational moment, but hardly the main thrust of the season or even the big finale of the episode it’s in. These are damaged people, impulsive people, and though there’s a lot more hate than love on display the weakness onscreen is something atypical for what is essentially a "guy’s show". Most of the themes involve men coming to grips with their shortcomings, accepting the curve balls of life, and the joy of the female body. Except for Probie (Lombardi), who spends a healthy dose of the season getting blown by his male roomate. In the same way that Nip/Tuck makes its bread by dwelling on material that could just as easily be at home on a soap opera, Rescue Me manages to live on the line and take the human condition and mine it for gold instead of cheap emotion. It works nearly every time and there are some moments of brutal raw truth that definitely gave me pause.

No one bares it all more than Leary, who got a much deserved Emmy nomination for his work this season, and though 24 inexplicably took many of the major awards there’s no denying his transition from very solid comedian onstage and film to truly powerful dramatic actor. That he generates most of the material helps but it also means the guy is totally immersed in the magic that makes Rescue Me so compelling. This is borderline virtuosity, all told.

"Which is Gary Coleman and which is the thing from Cat’s Eye?"
"Here’s what’s weird. They’re BOTH Gary Coleman."

The season moves along fast, each of the thirteen episodes keeping things moving and no real filler and the progression of the characters all leading somewhere interesting. Daniel Sunjata’s work also is exemplary as he becomes more well-rounded but also discovers a void in his own situation. I always felt that his character was the weak link because he wasn’t funny enough and because his schtick revolved too much around his beefy handsomeness. Thankfully, though he’s still the buff calendar fireman of the bunch, his story dovetails more fittingly with the rest of the bunch.

It really is a lean and mean show with very little to complain about. It has tons of laughs, some surprises, the toning down of the gimmicky "ghost" subplot, and more than a few moments where it really twisted my gut in a way few television shows have. Strong stuff, but don’t let the maudlin stuff scare you. It’s a fucking riot as well and Denis Leary joins Steve Carell, Ricky Gervais, and Larry David as one of those guys who’s insanely fun to watch twist in the wind.

Possibly the best show on television not involving the New Jersey mob.

Things that really worked:

  • Robert John Burke’s sidewalk liquor smackdown of Leary.
  • Scurti’s "cigar spitting" moment.
  • The mentally challenged brother of Franco’s girlfriend and his Tourette’s.
  • Every woman Leary’s involved with is hotter than fists.
  • Dean Winters’ stabilizing work.
  • The musical choices for the show. Spot on.
  • The hockey locker room confessional scene.

Things that really didn’t:

  • Patti D’Arbanville subplot sucked.
  • Chief’s wife and her condition have grown tedious as a subplot.
  • The ‘Born Again Christian’ subplot with Gavin’s daughter had no bite.
  • Though she was my boyhood crush, Tatum O’Neal never reaches past one-note.
  • A few too many pop culture references to existing television shows.

"You’re nuts, Jesus would NEVER sneak up on us."

The Package

There’s a ton of special features wisely spread out on each disc which allows for a nice decompression between them. I watched this season in three bursts and the special features were a perfect way for me to rest my eyes a little and have a little fun before getting hot and heavy again. There’s not enough commentary tracks for my blood because this is a cast I could listen to ruminate about sheep ass and still crave more.

That said, it’s a nicely appointed set and it looks terrific.

9.0 out of 10