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.)