|Rescue Me: Season Two (2005)
Starring: Denis Leary, Mike Lombardi, James McCaffrey, Jack McGee, Steven Pasquale, Andrea Roth, John Scurti, Daniel Sunjata
With the future of “The Shield” in a constant state of limbo, basic cable programming giant FX will need to kick it up a notch if they plan to lure audiences back to their television sets next year. Their second-biggest hit, the firefighter drama “Rescue Me,” will most likely be the network’s go-to show, but after a slightly dismal second season (when compared to the series’ debut, anyway), Denis Leary and Co. have a lot of work ahead of them. And while season two could be chalked up as a disappointment for many fans (this reviewer included), it delivered the kind of build-up that could make season three one hell of year for the show.
The series picks up only a few weeks after the events of the season one finale, with Tommy Gavin (Leary) still treading in hell following the emotional outbreak that landed Franco (Daniel Sunjata) in the intensive care unit with major burn damage. And if the guilt surrounding that accident wasn’t bad enough, his wife Janet (Andrea Roth) has taken the kids and disappeared, leaving Tommy all alone at a new firehouse filled with a group of do-gooder dimwits. Meanwhile, as the guys at Ladder 62 are learning to cope with the departure of their leader, Kenny (John Scurti) conducts an appeal for his return, but he runs into some problems of his own when he gets slapped with sexual harassment charges when he calls Laura (Diane Farr) a twat.
The rest of the guys aren’t doing so great either. Franco returns to the firehouse after taking a couple of weeks off, but he’s become dependent on the Vicodin that the hospital prescribed for him. He’s also still new at this whole parenthood thing, and while he seemingly relies on Laura’s motherly skills at first, he soon realizes how much he really cares for her. Chief Reilly (Jack McGee), on the other hand, is simultaneously dealing with his son’s outspoken homosexuality and wife’s sudden diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, while Garrity (Steven Pasquale) and Probie (Mike Lombardi) fill in the background.
Perhaps the reason why there are so many strong feelings against season two is because the series made some very drastic changes in content. No longer was the show solely based on Ladder 62’s firefights and firehouse banter, but series writers Leary and Peter Tolan dove in to some pretty serious shit. One of the best examples of this sudden revolution is in the character of Probie, who was transformed from fun-loving pretty boy to psycho ex-boyfriend-in-desperate-need-of-a-shower over the course of a couple episodes. This subplot especially, in which Probie begins to stalk and threaten his ex-girlfriend after being unceremoniously dumped, was one of those threads that just didn’t speak well for the future of the show. Thankfully, the writers dropped it before the story got any darker, but that wasn’t the case for one of the second season’s other major plotlines: Tommy’s newborn friendship with Jesus, which was relatively disliked by many critics, and one that I personally thought dragged on just a bit too long.
Fans of the series can reassess their own judgments now with the release of the second season on DVD. This time around, FX has packaged the show in a four-disc box, regardless of the fact that the same amount of material appears as the first season. Transferred over to DVD in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and complemented by a Dolby 5.1 audio track, all thirteen episodes appear across the four discs. Unfortunately, there are no audio commentaries to be found this time around, and the organization of the special features is so ludicrous that your DVD drive will probably break from opening it over and over again. Along with 35 deleted scenes (all of which are spread across all four discs), the season two box set also features a handful of bonus material included on the last three discs of the set. Disc two houses two featurettes, including one all about the second season of the show (aptly named “The 2nd Season”) and another on location scouting (“Shooting in New York”), as well as a five-minute gag reel that’s definitely worth checking out.
Discs three and four also include their share of production featurettes, but none are all that interesting, like the short featurettes on the dynamics of the firehouse kitchen (“The Kitchen”) and “Writing for the Cast.” There’s also an interview with real NYFD firefighters moderated by co-star Diane Farr, and a series of behind-the-scenes clips entitled “Real Life on the Set of Rescue Me,” but they really don’t demand any attention be paid to them. What does, however, is FX’s decision to spread the second season across four discs when it would have easily fit on three. Does this give them the right to charge more? And if not, then the only purpose it serves is to take up more room in my binder. Still, it’s worth the purchase either way, because there’s just not enough good programming to be picky when it comes to your favorite shows being released on DVD. And in defense of “Rescue Me,” it’s not only one of my favorite shows, but it’s also one of the best on television.