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'Rescue Me': Whom are you trying to fool?

Last season on "Rescue Me," a rough sex scene between Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) and his estranged wife, Janet (Andrea Roth), left some viewers outraged and spurred a controversy over whether the act constituted rape or not.Rescueme_janet_baby_300_2

This week's episode seems to be aiming for a similar response by ending on an absurd, outrageous cliffhanger: Tommy holding a baby out over a river below, pondering whether to drop the child in. That baby, by the way, is either his or his brother's son with Janet (most likely his brother's, but no one knows for sure). But it isn't the paternity that placed him in that situation.

The convoluted soap opera dramatics that led Tommy to that place would baffle anyone who's not a regular viewer, but they are already understood by those who are. So let's deal with the creative decision to end the episode that way.

I think it's a load of crap.

Clearly Tommy is not going to kill the baby. If he does, there's no turning back. Far more than last season's "rape" (which was complicated, character-driven and in keeping with Tommy and Janet's well-established rocky relationship), deliberately killing a child would forever destroy any interest we could have in the character. Tommy may be royally messed up, but he's not psycho or a completely crazy. Not even Tony Soprano ever committed a sin on that level.

So why tease us with it? Why taunt loyal viewers with a closing shot that screams, "Hey, you know we like pushing the envelope. Do you think we're crazy enough to do this!?!" (To further set the audience up, the episode opened with a spectacular fire rescue sequence that resulted in the deaths of seven children ... so dead babies were something of a "theme" for the hour.)

It's one thing to show Tommy in a desperate situation. It's another to use that situation to try to get viewers to tune in next week, or worse, to get people in the media to write about those nutty things they do on "Rescue Me" (yes, I'm guilty, but I'm supposed to write about this show every week).

Last week the always-entertaining Catholic League launched a protest against the show citing anti-Catholic sentiments expressed by Tommy and a comic scene featuring a former nun having sex while wearing a habit. That's the kind of controversy that honors the show and makes the protesters look foolish. The nun isn't one of the show's greatest creations, but she's so exaggerated it's pointless to be offended, and Tommy's history as a lapsed Catholic has never been anything less than a valid and honest dramatic portrayal.

But this week's cliffhanger shows what happens when that kind of button-pushing goes too far in the wrong direction. The result has the nasty feeling of disdain for the audience.

Do the show's powers that be really think we're stupid enough to buy this "will-he-or-won't-he" scenario? And if they do, why are we watching?

-- Geoff Berkshire

Comments () | Archives (4)

Geoff said
[last season's "rape" (which was complicated, character-driven and in keeping with Tommy and Janet's well-established rocky relationship), . . . Not even Tony Soprano ever committed a sin on that level.]

I'd like to point out that for many viewers, there was a larger problem. Besides the fact that there seemed to be a discrepancy, as to whether or not there WAS a rape, depending on if you listened to Leary or to Tolan, -- RM is opposite to Chase's "Sopranos" because . . .

A) There isn't a clear distinction between auteur POV and character POV.

B) The female characters are so cartoonish that one can't determine any real dynamic between characters, except that the women are uniformly grating and wholly unsympathetic. Livia, Carmela and Janice OTOH are true characters. There's no guts in punching, lying to or raping a cartoon.

It's shock for shock sake and no amount of baby killing is going to make this "The Sopranos" or perhaps more analogous, "I Claudius."

I agree with you. Some one who saves lives would never believe an innocent baby (who may be the only son of his dead brother) could ever be "better off" killed than raised by someone who loves him. I found it completely over the top and it made me lose interest and hope for the future of Tommy Gavin.

I run the Myspace Fan Club and I would have to say the situation the show left on has estranged some of the fans in my opinion.

In the last week I have received hundreds of emails about this specific show. Normally in a week I get a couple dozen.

It is interesting the responses I receive from fans. Most of them stating "I will never watch the Show Again". My view ship of the Rescue Me Forum is down by about 40% from last weeks traffic and overall interest in the Myspace Page is down verses previous weeks. You could say there were outside factors driving that, but I thought it was strange.

I hope the people at FX take note of what they are doing to their fan base with this lackluster season so far, and step it up a notch. I am a die hard fan, and will watch regardless but not everyone is dedicated as I am, and honestly just a flip of the channel and that viewer is off to something else. There is a lot of great TV out there, and this show was one of those shows. Right now though…. Fans are starting to question that.

Just my .02



I agree. After being quite disappointed with the season premiere, I thought "Rescue Me" had regained some of its momentum from what I thought was a great season last year. Even so, this season has been all over the place and not at all as satisfying as I'd hope. The cliffhanger from the last episode was the ultimate cheap shot. As you correctly point out, no resolution is really going to work to the show's benefit. "Rescue Me" is in real danger of being turned into a vacancy on my DVR schedule.


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