Strive as one might for objectivity, certain shows come equipped with viewer expectations. So when Denis Leary announced that USA would be debuting his comedic accompaniment to "Rescue Me," a natural reaction, at least among Leary fans, would have been "Yay."
Then, when the first episode of "Sirens," which premieres Thursday, turned out to be one long (literally and figuratively) penis joke, an equally natural reaction might have been "Gaack."
Which is no doubt why USA sent three episodes for review. The new show, from executive producers Bob Fisher and Leary, represents a new subset of the network's smart 'n' lively, mostly PG lineup.
A very far cry from "Monk" or even "Royal Pains," "Sirens" is a hard PG-13, for language and sexuality. (You may not hear the F-word but you will hear almost everything else.) While it does skew very male, you will find, hidden among all the T&A verbiage and wearisome male befuddlement, some very clever writing and an assortment of funny jokes.
Based on a British television show of the same name, "Sirens" follows a trio of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) as they drive around Chicago attempting to save other people's lives while figuring out their own. Where would television be without emotionally stunted 30-somethings?
Johnny (Michael Mosley) is the happy-go-lucky commitment-phobe, trying to renegotiate his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Theresa (Jessica McNamee), who also happens to be a cop. Hank (Kevin Daniels) is the wise and wry gay guy who, not surprisingly, gets all the best lines (making him the second black actor to land such a role this season — see also Andre Braugher in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine").
Brian (Kevin Bigley) is a Leary signature character, a young "innocent-savant," who lives by a surprisingly sound moral code, in this case heavily influenced by the Hallmark Channel. In the premiere, he delivers a brief monologue on the dangers of Internet porn that is a hilarious distraction from the rest of the mess that follows.
Together, they are helping one another grow up and learn to be men. Which is a sad thought, really, since they are all well into adulthood and could easily be fathers themselves.
But that is where American masculinity finds itself these days, on television at least. Wearing baseball shirts well into its mid-30s, horrified by the notion of anyone not young and super-hot having sex and cooking up various harebrained schemes.
Still, the milieu of "Sirens" forces it to deal with a certain amount of responsibility — the three men are good, as opposed to bungling, EMTs — as well as life-and-death issues. This dynamic makes room for stories that do not require gross synonyms for primary and secondary sex characteristics.
In the second and third episodes, a dying man leaves both Johnny and Brian with self-appointed quests that do not turn out as planned; an attempt at community service, likewise, goes haywire in several ways, one of which allows a bit of soul to peek through.
Indeed, if Leary and Fisher ("We're the Millers," "Wedding Crashers") weren't quite so gleeful about being able to make raunchy jokes, "Sirens" could turn out to be a pretty funny show.
When: 10 and 10:30 p.m. Thursday
Rating: TV-14-DLS (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue, coarse language and sex)
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