Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rescuing Us From Summer Doldrums

When you think about it, it's been a depressing month for TV, what with the likes of "Lost," "Heroes," "The Shield" and "The Sopranos" wrapping up, only to be replaced by "America's Got Talent" (trust me, it doesn't) and "So You Think You Can Dance."

So it really is something of a rescue as we welcome back "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p..m.) back to the airwaves tonight.

Conceived by series star Denis Leary and Peter Tolan, "Rescue Me" focuses on a group of dysfunctional New York City firefighters still trying to cope with their losses after 9/11. The series is both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.

Leary's Tommy Gavin is still chased by the ghosts (literally) of his fallen loved ones and fire victims he failed to save. When we last left Tommy, he was trapped in a burning house after being drugged by his crazy ex-girlfriend Sheila (Callie Thorne), who was trying to rape him in order to conceive his love child. Yes, you read that right.

Tommy's home life is a mess. His family is still reeling after the death of his son at the hands of a drunk driver, and his ex-wife (Andrea Roth) is pregnant with either his or his late brother's baby.

Most of Tommy's unit isn't much better off. Jerry (Jack McGee) is trying to recover from a near-fatal heart attack; Kenny (John Scurti) is dating a soon-to-be-ex nun; Sean (Steven Pasquale) is trying to cope with marrying Tommy's off-the-wall nuts sister (Tatum O'Neal); Franco (Daniel Sunjata) is working at a relationship with a woman and her autistic brother, who may be more clever than people give him credit for; and the probie (Michael Lombardi) is struggling both with his sexuality and his terminally ill mother.

Tommy also gets a new love interest in Nona (Jennifer Esposito), the firefighter who saves his life in the house fire. Tommy's luck being terrible and all, he faces insurance fraud charges in the opener as investigators believe he was responsible.

"Rescue Me" is one of TV's best hours, boasting an Emmy-level performance from Leary and one of TV's best supporting casts. If you're only going to catch one show this summer, this is the one to see.

'SOPRANOS' RATINGS: Whether you liked or hated the ending, people definitely tuned in to watch "The Sopranos" Sunday night. Nielsen called it at 11.9 million, the highest rated episode for the series in three years.

But it was a good news/bad news deal for HBO. Whether it was the subject matter or anger over "The Sopranos" finale, new series "John From Cincinnati" brought in just 3.4 million viewers - lower than "Rome" (3.8 million) and "Big Love" (4.6 million), according to The Los Angeles Times.

Even with time-shifting and multiple airings on HBO, those are pretty bad numbers, though maybe they will pick up in Week 2 once "Sopranos" fever has ended.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: One show I never had a chance to review was "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," which has gotten mixed reviews from critics. But Perry is an extremely popular writer/director/actor, so his show (TBS, 9 p.m.) may be worth a look if you are a fan of his work.

"Hidden Palms" (CW, 8 p.m.) continues with new episodes this summer, while "One Tree Hill" wraps up with its season finale. Somehow, this was the show the CW managed to pick ahead of "Veronica Mars." Go figure.

"Traveler" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is also new tonight, as is a bunch of reality stuff.

VCR alert: "Rescue Me," as with other FX shows, tends to run long, so set the VCR to go that extra five minutes or so.

5 comments:

Mike said...

My wife is a One Tree Hill fanatic, and has spread her disease to me to a degree. I don't mind your criticisms of the show at all -- it seems to be more of a soap opera for young teenage girls than a prime time hit. I just wonder this:

One of your previous postings about OTH said that the show would fastforward four years past college, I think. Is that really the way they are going to save it once the High School venue is no longer available? Do you have any further details about it?

zodin2008 said...

I am with Phillip, "One Tree Hill" is just pure soapy trash, but there's a place for that kind of stuff on air, too. I guess.

And YES, they are advancing the show past College because the real life cast looks too old.

Back to shows, worth discussing, "Rescue Me", easily one of, if not the single best hour of Television, anywhere anytime. Even "The Shield", its gitty FX brethren, can't match the GREATNESS that is "Rescue".

Last year, I was happy that Kiefer Sutherland won the Best Drama Emmy, but I felt Leary deserved it the most. Though either was a superior choice to the insanely overrated Hugh Laurie. (Yes, Phillip, I am sure you will respond...)

But not since "Buffy" has a show been able to make you feel such extreme emotions at the exact same time...both amazing Comedy and Drama, quite like "Rescue Me". It's why I am not as sad as some about "The Sopranos" ending. Because this show is better and it's still going.

And unlike David Chase (Sopranos creator), Leary & Peter Tolan don't treat their audience like a freaking joke and actually give you greatness every week. I am 100% confident that the day "Rescue" decides to end the series (and hopefully it's not soon), it won't end with Tommy and a bunch of ghosts listening to 'Journey' in a Diner. We might actually get a glipse into Tommy's future, good and bad.

It's funny...the more I reflect on the ending of "The Sopranos", the more I side with the angry masses and realize that Chase's arrogance and selfishness have done a nation a disservice.

Phillip Ramati said...

Mike,

The producers apparently are doing the 4-year fast forward in order to save the show from some of the doldrums other shows faced when going from high school to college, such as BH 90210 and Felicity, among others. However, the college years will be addressed through flashbacks throughout the season.

Zod,

I would say the Shield is about equal to Rescue Me - it doesn't have RM's humor, but is slightly more consistent on a seasonal basis. But picking between them is like choosing between a Rolls Royce and a Bentley.

I don't think David Chase chose the ending he did because he was arrogant (though he has come off that way since the show ended). I think he did it because there really wasn't any way to end the series to anyone's satisfaction.

Jonathan said...

I too love me some "Rescue Me." Although I don't know anymore I can add to what the two of you have already said.

And while it could be looked at as just more reality crap, I kind of dig it so I thought I would mention that "Last Comic Standing's" fourth season premieres tonight. Maybe this year someone who is actually funny will win, of course I guess that is all rhetorical since different people find different things funny.

Phillip Ramati said...

Jonathan,

I tend not to promote a lot of reality, and I think you're analysis of "Last Comic Standing" is spot on, because humor is subjective. It also doesn't help that the show keeps changing hosts and time slots. This is supposed to be the "American Idol" for comics, but has never produced its Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson.