`Rescue Me:’ We make the Jacksons look like the Osmonds


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When we last left Tommy Gavin, the self-loathing narcissist fire fighter who is determined not only to ruin his life, but those of everyone who comes within 20 miles of him, he was lying the floor of his bar bleeding to death.

The blood was from a gunshot delivered courtesy of Tommy’s Uncle Teddy, who, unable to accept his own role in the death of his wife Ellie (letting her get behind the wheel drunk), blames Tommy for not only falling off the wagon but taking the rest of the Gavin clan with him. On his way to the hospital, Tommy has a white light experience reuniting him with all 343 firemen who lost their lives during the September 11 attacks. But before he can get to heaven, he ends up in a much hotter place and that is enough to scare him back to life.


And so starts another year of FX’s “Rescue Me.” Denis Leary and his co-conspirator/executive producer Peter Tolan are back for their sixth season of angst, torment, rage, sex and satire. While always dark bordering on pitch black, “Rescue Me” also usually could be counted on for a fair amount of raunchy comedy as well. However, as the show, about of a group of New York City firefighters in trying to go on after September 11 winds down its mostly triumphant run, the laughs have become few and far between. That’s too bad. At its best, “Rescue Me” combined the off-beat politically incorrect humor of “The Job,” Leary and Tolan’s grossly under appreciated ABC situation comedy with the grit Steven Bochco’s “NYPD Blue.” The show gave us a realistic look at firemen warts and all. Yes, they saved lives and made a difference, but they also lived hard.

The last few seasons though have become more about Tommy’s drama at the expense of the rest of the crew. When he’s not juggling multiple women who, of course, find his pain and desperation attractive and realize too late he’s only out to take hostages and satisfy himself, he’s putting his fellow firefighters at risk with his crazy antics.

In the season premiere, those closest to Tommy seem to have had enough. Tommy sneaks out of the hospital early with a bag full of drugs. His cousin Mick, whose own sobriety went out the window last season, is now trying to climb those 12 steps again and doesn’t want to put up with any more of Tommy’s bull. He takes him to see Teddy who is also off the sauce and threatens Tommy if he drinks again. For most who try to get sober, the idea is to find a new happiness and freedom, for the Gavin clan, it’s one more thing to be angry and bitter about. They are white knucklers who don’t know how to surrender.

Tommy returns home where his ex-wife Janet is living with their two daughters Colleen and Katy. Like her father, Collen has turned into a full blown alcoholic in denial. Janet lets her drink at home and makes the same rule for Tommy.

But all Tommy cares about when he gets home is that his friend Franco was at the house helping out while he was in the hospital. Clearly Franco’s motives can’t be pure because if Tommy were in the same situation, his motives would most certainly not be pure. Tommy even tells Franco to stay away from his house and Franco shows great restraint by not punching Tommy out.

Still wrapped up in Tommy is Sheila, the widow of Tommy’s cousin Jimmy who was killed in the twin towers. Tommy has had an on-again, off-again affair with Sheila for years. Now Sheila’s main interest is getting her son out of the fire department and if she has to keep messing around with Tommy (or promising to anyway) then so be it. Sheila, who actually does love Tommy unlike Janet, always blows it every time she may have a shot at winning Tommy over.


At the firehouse, Tommy’s antics may lead to their unit being disbanded. The mayor is closing firehouses because of budget issues and and guess which house is first on the list. Chief Feinberg lets the crew know he’s not going down with their ship. There seems to be some recognition of their peril the team is in as they step back from their little bar operation, which is now being run by Tommy’s cop cousin Eddie.

Tommy goes to the bar where he is welcomed back as a freak attraction. The spot where he lay bleeding now has a chalk outline around it and patrons want to take their picture with the man who died and came back to life. But Teddy won’t let Tommy drink unless he pays for it and the idea of that is just too much for Tommy’s ego to take.

So where does Tommy go to find a place to get his drink on? A church, of course. Tommy unwinds with some whiskey and a smoke seemingly waiting for a sign from above to stop.

If it sounds like I’m being too hard on Tommy, it’s because for six seasons he’s used his anger and grief over September 11 to do what he wants to whoever he pleases with no regard for the consequences to himself or the people he purports to love. It’s been an entertaining ride but like any boozer, what started out as fun turned into fun with problems and then just problems. He keeps doing the same things over and over again expecting the results to be different. Tommy’s moody sarcastic alcoholic bad boy shtick has grown tired but it’s as if Tolan and Leary can’t imagine a sober Tommy Gavin still being as compelling a character as the drunk Tommy Gavin. That’s too bad because we need to be reminded why we care about Tommy Gavin. Underneath all that booze and cynicism and bad behavior is a lost soul. It’s time he got found and saved those around him instead of suffocating them. Get clean Tommy, we’ll still love you.

-- Joe Flint

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