Rescue (is for) Me

It has taken me too many weeks to finally get around to writing about Rescue Me, a new drama on basic cable channel FX… which is a shame, because if anyone wanted to watch it off of my recommendation (and they should), they have missed their chance.

The series comes from (and stars) Dennis Leary, the attitude-oriented comic, which might cause people to expect little from it. It is built around a New York City fireman, working from a station that lost men in the WTC collapse. That risks seeming too topical, too of the moment. But collapsing buildings, but collapsing lives. Leary’s character has become aware that his life has been destroyed, and while things like having lost a brother in the collapse may not have been his doing, the failure of his marriage, the growing reliance on alcohol, and his new habit of talking to the dead. Yes, he’s aware, but he’s not quite ready to reverse the process… at least, not in any non-destructive way.

At first, I was a bit uncertain about the level of focus on homosexuality in this show. That may sound a bit odd coming from me, as I was long one to push for more such content. But I think we’ve reached a certain saturation level on TV, where going for the gay topic is almost the default thing (which may well say something great about how our country has moved, as TV tends to like topics that seem taboo but are really last year’s taboo.) And this show has it in spades, not so much central gay characters but characters who are paranoid about the homosexuality of other characters.

But then I took a good look at who the characters were. The station captain picking fights with those who suggest there are homosexuals in the FDNY. The 9-11 survivor who can’t tell his coworkers that he’s writing poetry to deal with the situation. The bachelor who suddenly finds himself a single father of a 5 year old. And so on… it’s all about men who are dealing with trying to be men in a world where the concept has become fluid and fuzzy.

Now, it’s not the only show with such a theme (it’s done in more obvious ways on King of the Hill, for instance. But here it is presented seriously, dramatically. Not subtly, mind you, as these are people who are not prone to subtlety (and yet, they are finding that they are subtle in ways, very much in conflict with what they thought being a man meant.)

I don’t know how this will hit anyone else (particularly women), but I strongly like this show.

(I do have to note that most reviews of this show talk about the level of profanity. Can’t say I’ve noticed it. Oh, I’m sure there’s lots of profanity there, but it never stuck out to me. It’s in a natural environment for such talk, and it just becomes part of the rhythm of the language. If it wasn’t there, it would likely be conspicuous in its absence.)

Published in: on August 30, 2004 at 11:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

That pilots special…

The Best TV Shows You’ve Never Seen special was, as expected, being false about the title. Most of the pilots were shown (in brief excerpts) to be ridiculed, generally with an attitude that one must’ve been crazy to think that thus-and-such a concept could make it on TV. Except sillier concepts have been on TV, and have succeeded. Perhaps the most blatant example of this problem was when they ridiculed the pilot for the American version of Red Dwarf… a show which ran many years in the original UK version. (Another blatant example was when they ridiculed a TV version of Daredevil — apparently, this special was made a couple yeara ago, and in the time since, the concept has been used to at least a modicum of success on the big screen.)

And when, at the end, they ran bits of shows that they thought were good… well, you can’t explain what makes a show good in a couple of lines. A good show is not just one that strives for something good, but also one that does that good thing well. Not every hospital drama is St. Elsewhere, nor every cop drama Hill Street Blues, and not every an-alien-lives-with-me series will do what Alf did as well as Alf did it. So it was fun to see these clips of the various shows, but it really did not leave one feeling informed.

Luckily, the articles discussing this special also pointed out that Shout Factory, makers of the fine Freaks and Geeks boxed set, is planning a set of interesting unsold pilots. That, I may have to get!

Published in: on August 17, 2004 at 10:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Ol' Lympics

The Olympics are infesting the media once again. People don’t believe me when I say I find the whole thing very distasteful, but I do. This isn’t about human achievement, and it isn’t about bringing the world together. It’s a way of pitting countries against each other in one big power contest, a big booster for the sort of nationalism that leads to more damaging forms of conflict. The folks who want to not bring politics into it have missed that it is little but politics, and has been well longer than I’ve been alive. The Berlin games. The boycotts. The killing of the Israeli athletes. The announced refusal of folks from one country to compete against those from specific other countries. The lone female on the Iranian team, a gymnast who is instead competing in sharpshooting because you can’t do gymnastics in the government-mandated long coat and head scarf.

If you want to see human achievement, chose something where people aren’t selected to represent countries. If you want to see government achievement, measure it in what they offer their people and the world in terms of liberty, security, education, opportunity, and wealth.

Published in: on August 15, 2004 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Five down, 4395 to go

Last weekend, I took advantage of the marathon of The 4400 episodes to give this USA Networks SF series a try. I watched the entire "miniseries" in one day, an interesting way of tackling anything. Really, though, it wasn’t a miniseries but an extended pilot. It did not strive to tell a story, it strove to start one. It ended not with resolution, but with revelation.
The titular group is people who have been abducted from the Earth over the past half century or so, and have all been returned at once, unaged and with superpowers. It’s that last part that makes the series far less interesting for me (and I say that as a person with a love for superhero fiction.) Whereas the story could be about people trying to reintegrate themselves into society and the challenges they face, it is instead a Monster Of The Week show, Smallville without the interesting challenge of Lex Luthor. And once the revelation is made as to why this happened, it doesn’t make much sense (to try to explain without giving much away: it seems so inefficient). It seems merely an excuse to set up a Monster Of The Week show, and it’s done in such a way that it makes the challenges of facing that monster seem unimportant.
A shame, because there is some good production here, some good cast, a few interesting characters (although mostly their the sort of broad Good or Evil folks that pepper Stephen King’s more epic work, which don’t even consistantly work in the able King’s hands.)

Published in: on August 15, 2004 at 11:34 am  Comments Off  

Unseen pilots

For those of us who are into seeing what the networks chose to turn down, ABC has an interesting-sounding special on Monday. The Best TV Shows That Never Were features clips from a variety of unaired pilots. I have a terrible feeling that it’s going to be framed by the sort of annoying desperate-pun-filled, badly-read-off-cue-card-by-minor-celebs framing presentation that TV tends to use when it pays attention to itself, and I’d much rather have a festival of unsold pilots rather than clips, but still this should be worth a look. Lee Goldberg, the respectable TV historian who wrote the book on unsold pilots is one of the key guys behind it, so maybe there is some hope.

They’re pushing the special based on the names of the folks who appear in some of these unsold pilots, including Keanu Reeves, Marg Helgenberger, Tom Selleck, and Robert Urich. That last one is a surprise; I sometimes suspect that Urich holds the record for the most TV series produced. It almost seems like he wouldn’t have had time to make a pilot that didn’t get picked up.

Published in: on August 15, 2004 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Queer Eye for a Queer Game

As I prepare for friends to gather here for a poker night, I am reminded of the worst advice I’ve seen on TV lately.

On Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, one of the Fab Five recommended that people holding a poker night keep a second deck pre-shuffled, so it’s ready to play.

Trust me, any poker player willing to play with a "pre-shuffled" will be willing to let you hold his wallet, and will take your word for it that you aren’t bluffing…

Published in: on August 6, 2004 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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