|Rescue Me: Season Three (2006)
Starring: Denis Leary, Mike Lombardi, James McCaffrey, Jack McGee, Steven Pasquale, Andrea Roth, John Scurti, Daniel Sunjata, Dean Winters
The first season of “Rescue Me” followed firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) as he was separated from his wife and kids. In the second season, he managed to get his family back only to lose them again. In the third season, Tommy deals with the devastating death of his son while trying to keep his second family – the crew at the firehouse – together as long as he can.
It’s a difficult task, as each member of the crew flirts with leaving the house. Franco (Daniel Sunjata) studies for the lieutenant’s exam in an effort to jumpstart his career, but is distracted by his relationship with an older woman (Susan Sarandon), who eventually tries to take his daughter away from him. He’s torn between the responsibility he feels as a father and his desire to be a carefree bachelor. Meanwhile, “Probie” (Mike Silletti) contemplates the end of his probationary period and considers getting a fresh start at a new house, especially when the crew finds out about his recent bisexual escapades. Sean (Steven Pasquale) struggles to keep his relationship with Tommy’s sister Maggie (Tatum O’Neal) under wraps while trying to figure out if she’s really the right girl for him. Finally, Lou and Jerry each have their own crises to deal with, which revolve mostly around money (or the lack thereof) and questionable romances. Critics of the season felt that some of the crew’s storylines were simply too outlandish, but it was nice to see each of the characters get an ample amount of screen time throughout the year.
In the end, the show is still about Tommy, and there’s no shortage of hurdles, both self-imposed and out of his control, that he has to overcome. Early on, he discovers that his wife Janet (Andrea Roth) is dating his brother Johnny (Dean Winters), putting a strain on those relationships for most of the season. Tommy decides to enlist the help of Johnny’s ex (Marissa Tomei) in an effort to make Janet and Johnny jealous, but things don’t work out as well as he had hoped. The Tommy-Janet-Johnny storyline carries throughout the season and it features a few controversial and surprising events, which I won’t ruin for you here.
Tommy always seems to be juggling 10 different things at once, but the most explosive grenade in the air is his relationship with Sheila (Callie Thorne). She wants a real future with him, but he sees her as a backup plan if things don’t work out with Janet. Their relationship has always been both passionate and rocky, but Sheila’s mental health is deteriorating, so she becomes less quirky and more dangerous as the season wears on.
The four-disc set contains all 13 episodes in crisp widescreen format and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. Special features include a must-see “Rescue Me Comedy Short,” a hilarious, 13-minute bit that follows the crew as they investigate a mysterious creature that has invaded the firehouse. There is also a gag reel and a five-minute short, “Going to the Gay Place,” where producer/writer Peter Tolan plays a prank on his cast by writing a fake scene where Sean and “Probie” kiss in an episode. Other bonus features include a 25-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a location tour, a somewhat lame interview with Denis Leary’s stand-in, and a preview of the fourth season. Finally, there are two short documentaries where real firefighters talk about firehouse traditions and the challenges of fighting fires in a vertical city such as New York.
Music has always been a big part of the series, so there’s a noticeable absence in the bonus material of a featurette about the soundtrack. Fans would like to know more about how and why certain songs are selected for certain scenes, so I hope the creators will include something like this in the future. For those interested in learning more about the show’s soundtrack, the official website features liner notes from Denis Leary and playlists from some of the cast members, while the Rescue Me Forum has a section on the music of the series, including threads that list all the music used in each season.By making a huge splash with its terrific first season, the show put itself in the awkward position of having to live up to exaggerated standards. The last two seasons haven’t been quite as good, but the show is still one of the best on television. After all, we shouldn’t try to find fault with great, just because it’s not outstanding.