Rescue Me: The Complete Fifth Season
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The men of 62 Truck are back for the Emmy-nominated fifth season! This season, Denis Leary and the gang deal with death, love, conspiracy theories, alcoholism, cancer and more as they look to the future while under the shadow of a haunting past. Loaded with DVD extras!
For those disappointed in season 4 (as series cocreator Peter Tolan candidly admits in a season retrospective included as a bonus feature), season 5 should rekindle your passion for Rescue Me. The backbone of these first 11 episodes is the introduction of a French journalist (Karina Lombard), who is writing a book in anticipation of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Her interviews with the firefighters as well as family members of those who perished in the attack (Callie Thorne's Sheila is a particular standout) have the same force as those in the classic M*A*S*H episode "The Interview." Tommy Gavin's year-long sobriety is put to the ultimate test when he is rocked by news footage that seems to show that his cousin Jimmy did not die in the first tower, as everyone believed. It forces Tommy (an Emmy-worthy Dennis Leary) to confront what happened that day and how he did--and did not--respond. "Are you haunted, Tommy?" the journalist asks. That's an understatement; he falls off the wagon and his ghosts return. Tommy is further put through the wringer by his wildly dysfunctional family, including his estranged wife Janet (Andrea Roth), who is now seeing a belligerent, wheelchair-bound alcoholic and pill popper (Michael J. Fox in his Emmy-winning performance); his oldest daughter Colleen (Natalie Distler), who is secretly seeing Black Shawn (Larenz Tate) and unnerves him with her precocious sexual prowess; and his younger daughter Katy (Olivia Crociccia), now attending an elite private school, where she has created a new identity for herself (and her parents). Among the other developments that will resonate throughout the season are the firefighters purchasing a bar; Franco (Daniel Sunjata) embarking on a boxing career; the return of Candy, who bilked and deserted Lou (John Scurti) back in season 2; and Sean's (Steven Pasquale) back pain, which is initially treated as comic relief, but takes a more devastating turn. Rescue Me can turn on a dime between "deep thought and personal wisdom" and crude, base humor. Its fatalistic sensibility and close-knit camaraderie is akin to Howard Hawks's Only Angels Have Wings. As for Tommy, who is described as "a great fireman, selfish, spiteful, hit-the-nail-on-the-head kind of guy," he tries desperately to keep it all together. After he beats his Section Eight, Deputy Chief Feinberg (Jerry Adler) warns him about stepping out of line in the future. "Since it's you, it could happen at any time," he states.
The 11 episodes that conclude Rescue Me's smokin' fifth season go from carpe diem to some very bad karma for Tommy. "You seem to do whatever you want and nothing bad ever happens to you," Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) states in the tense final moments of the harrowing and possibly game-changing finale. That's not entirely true. Tommy's family and personal life remain compellingly complicated: he falls off the wagon after a year of sobriety and tries to juggle supposed "no-strings" relationships with the volatile meds-upped Sheila and his estranged wife, Janet (Andrea Roth), who finally issues Tommy an ultimatum. Sparking the season's final episodes is Maura Tierney as "hot older chick" Kelly, who intrigues Tommy after she rushes back into a burning building to retrieve a mysterious suitcase. "We're not a happy-type show," Leary states during a convivial cast-member "family dinner," the most substantial of this three-disc set's special features. But there are some inspired comic set pieces, including one grocery store excursion with Tommy, Lou (John Scurti), and company that descends into chaos. Other comic subplots (Franco taking up boxing and Mike's awful bar band) mercifully fizzle out. There is also some satisfying payback as Lou turns the tables on Candy, his ex-hooker, ex-thief girlfriend from season 2 with whom he is reunited. Rescue Me did not mellow in this fifth season. The banter is as profane as ever ("Too far, dude"), the worldview remains char black (Tommy subverts an intervention by pouring drinks for all), and the show continues to take bold chances. Suffice to say that one doesn't expect a Busby Berkeley musical homage from Rescue Me. As with all good cliffhanger endings, this season's conclusion leaves viewers eager to see what awaits on the other side. --Donald Liebenson
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As to the show, it feels like a return to form in many ways. Not that season 4 was bad, it just felt like the show was starting to show some signs of aging. Season 5 really ups the ante, and makes the show feels fresh again, something difficult for a show five seasons in its run. I was shocked by Michael J. Fox's performance, definitely out of character of his usual role, and rather impressive. He provided a great foil for Dennis's character, and was very fun to watch. I also felt the writing was stronger, giving the characters more interesting stories, and were generally speaking a lot of fun. Overall, I recommend season 5 as a whole and recommend it to fans of the show, especially those who thought season 4 was a little more disappointing.
Denis Leary's enflamed New York city firefighter Tommy Gavin is back. I find Tommy Gavin an interesting character but at times it is frustrating that nothing of Denis Leary the stand-up comic with the zingers at the ready and the educated man (MFA from Emerson college) shows through. I suppose this shows Leary's commitment to Gavin as a character.
Perhaps more than any other factor, what shows in this season is Gavin as a substance abuser, an alcoholic. He is in AA and he is out of AA. He fights with the priest constantly about their problems with alcohol. The other firemen open a bar and he gets involved with it and drinking there. His girlfriend allows him to drink but his wife does not. An unrecognizable Michael J. Fox does a brilliant job of playing Gavin's wife's new boyfriend who is wheelchair bound. He and Gavin briefly bond as maimed characters on just about every level, including substance abuse. It's hard to upstage Leary but Fox manages it. I was sad that Fox did not become a permanent character on the series but I suppose he was not interested in doing tv long term. Maybe they can bring him back next season for a few episodes as well since he was not killed off.
Gavin the firefighter is also on considerable display in this season. Perhaps his inability to conquer his inner demons is what makes him courage personified with rescuing people in burning buildings. He can even cope with burned bodies which other firemen can't face without becoming ill.
The least satisfying aspect of this series is Gavin's continuing problems with his girlfriend and his wife and the other few women who briefly alight in his life. I can't stand either the wife or the girlfriend as characters and would be happy if somehow they were eliminated from this series. I wish they would bring back Tatum O'Neal more, Gavin's sister. At least she was a female character with whom we could sustain interest.
Of the other firefighters, Sean is the most interesting one in this season because he gets cancer (probably from 9/11 exposure) but must get surgery on the sly because he wants to remain in the fire department as a fighting fireman. We also discover that Sean can SING in some very imaginative dream sequences while he is unconscious. Kenny wants to marry a prostitute and the Chief is married to a promiscuous woman he brought over from Russia. This seems very strange to me and I have no idea if this bears any relationship to what choices real firefighters would make as to women to marry. That they are able to convince themselves that they can reform these women is black comedy.
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