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`Rescue Me:' Nothing like a good old fashioned protest

August 10, 2010 | 11:06 pm


Having been led off in handcuffs for giving his daughter Colleen a 151-proof baptism in an effort to get her to quit drinking, Tommy Gavin finds himself in jail surrounded by the ghosts of his cousin Jimmy Keefe and a grown-up version of his son Conner.

Apparently trying to drown your daughter is not a punishable offense though and the cops send Tommy home. There he makes Colleen try to drink to see if she's "cured." Of course, she throws up so Tommy and his wife Janet think that, indeed, her desire to drink has been lifted.

Not to waste too much time on the stupidity of this particular plot, but  I drank a ton of gin once and got so sick I could never touch it again. You know what I did? I switched to whiskey. But hey, if "Rescue Me" creators Peter Tolan and Denis Leary want to live in a fantasy world about alcoholism and how it should be treated, that's they're choice. Just hope a bunch of morons don't start thinking that if they stick their head in a bucket full of booze, they'll find a magic cure. And if Tolan and Leary are just setting Colleen up for a bigger fall, then why waste our time with the ridiculous booze bath plot?

While Tommy may have done no permanent damage to his daughter, his latest antics certainly didn't help the squad. He goes to work the next day to find the crew out front and the fire house boarded up. The mayor has made good on his threat to close fire houses to help with a budget shortfall and Needles says all of Tommy's escapades probably played a big part in Truck 62 getting the axe.

Again we suspend belief because there is no advance notice that they are being closed. The gang shows up at their Harlem station and it is locked up with a note on the door. Having lived in New York when houses were closed, I can tell you that is not how it is done. And if that sounds nit picky, keep in mind that "Rescue Me" goes out of its way to try to get things right when it comes to fires, so why can't they get this right?

The neighborhood, which was expecting the squad to throw a block party and cookout in an effort to generate good public relations for the guys, is upset at the closure and an impromptu protest starts. As one local black woman notes, "The only thing black people like more than a cookout is a good old-fashioned protest."

Faster than you can say hell no, we won't go, an angry mob is cursing the mayor for depriving them of firefighters. Sean Garrity observes that "it's like a million man march out here. Someone spray paints a note to the mayor suggesting he eat manure. "It lacks poetry, but gets the point across," cracks Needles.

Tommy's cousin Mick, with new girlfriend Sheila shows up with Uncle Teddy in tow. Tommy is jealous of Mick dating Sheila. Father Phil, who is also hanging around the fire house, takes one look at Sheila and decides she's the type into uniforms, even the ones worn by a priest and decides to flirt with her so she'll lose interest in Mickey.

Teddy meanwhile congratulates Tommy on his work with Coleen, who he describes as "an Irish bulimic." It's one of the few laugh out loud lines in the episode.

Before the protest can get to out of hand, the boys get wind of a fire at a school and race off to take it on without any trucks or equipment. They manage to rescue several kids while Sheila captures it on her camera with the hopes of getting media coverage and drawing attention to the station's closing.

It'd be nice to end this recap here, but unfortunately we have one more lame subplot to go. Janet, feeling proud of how Tommy fixed Colleen, decides to reward him by having dinner with him. Tommy gets restaurant advice and two tickets to Tony Bennett.

Of course, Tommy has trouble with the menu at the fancy Italian restaurant and his jokes fall flat. Janet is embarrassed and then embarrasses Tommy. The two get into a mini-shoving match and Janet tears up the Tony Bennett tickets in frustration. If this all seems familiar it's because Janet and Tommy have gotten into fights at restaurants for years and frankly it's not all that exciting to watch anymore. This one ends when it turns out one of the waiters at the joint was a childhood friend of Conner. Suddenly both are upset remembering the death of their son and the episode ends with them ending up in bed together trying to lick each others wounds.

Obviously I had a little trouble finding something to like about this episode. If it looks like I'm going out of my way to find things to criticize, it's only because the stories themselves were so uninspiring that my eyes drift elsewhere and what might have flown under the radar can no longer be ignored.

After a nice run of four great hours, the last two weeks of "Rescue Me" has been like being stuck at a party that you can't escape. Every time you are almost to the door, someone annoying pops up and talks your ear off with no regard to whether you're actually listening to them.

It doesn't have to be this way. Tolan and Leary have created some of the most compelling characters on television. Unfortunately, as the show nears the end, many have become cliches. Garrity and Mike Siletti have become dumb and dumber. Father Phil started out as an intriguing street-wise priest, but now seems a little unbelievable and, frankly, a little creepy. Janet and Sheila are one note as are Teddy and Maggie. The only characters who have really shone this season are Black Shawn, Colleen and Needles.

I've never missed an episode of "Rescue Me," and I'm not going to start now. It's not easy writing so harshly about a show that has been as good as anything on television and is constantly overlooked by critics and Emmy voters. I'll be back next week because the fire still burns in me, and I'll keep hoping that Tolan and Leary don't put it out for good.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: "Rescue Me's" John Scurti (Lou), Denis Leary (Tommy) and Larenz Tate (Black Shawn) don't need hoses or masks to fight fire. Credit: FX.

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