Together with Damages, one more landmark cable drama returns this evening: Rescue Me, in which Denis Leary and Peter Tolan have confronted the aftermath of 9/11 with black comedy and/or comedic drama since 2004. I have mixed feelings about the series: for a couple of seasons it was a searing, fearless examination of loss and Irish-Catholic guilt.
But it started to go the route of many searing, fearless examinations that stay on TV too long: it piled tragedy after tragedy on egocentric, alcoholic Tommy Gavin and returned to similar themes so many times that they lost their punch. (Tommy is reminded of his lost loved ones—again. Tommy gets another chance with Janet/Sheila/both—again. Tommy is tempted to start drinking again—again.)
At times too in recent years it’s seemed less like Leary is playing an NYC firefighter and more like he’s playing Denis Leary—a funny enough presence on, say, The Daily Show, but not the character I came to Rescue Me to watch. (In the return episode, for instance, Tommy goes on a long riff about celebrities who endorse products, not an unbelievable thing for a firefighter to joke about, but so close to Leary’s non-Rescue Me material that it took me away from the character.)
I’m hoping, though, that getting a final season will free the show from having to spin out the same stories and focus it in its closing episodes, a la FX’s The Shield. Will you respond to its alarm one more time?