Rescue Me—The Complete Fourth Season

(2008) *** 1/2 Unrated
560 min. FX. Cast: Denis Leary, Susan Sarandon, Charles Durning, Amy Sedaris, Jack McGee.

/content/films/3079/1.jpgWhere there's smoke, there's fire. And where there's chain-smoking comedian Denis Leary, there are firefighters. Leary lost family and friends who were firefighters, and in the year 2000, he created the charitable Leary Firefighters Foundation. 9/11 only intensified Leary's bond with firefighters, which cemented for good when Leary co-created the firehouse drama Rescue Me in 2004.

Of course, anyone who's ever watched Rescue Me knows that "firehouse drama" doesn't cut it as a descriptor. For starters, it's at least 50% comedy, and at least 50% of the comedy is sex comedy. As for the drama, it's not limited to the firehouse—it follows central character Tommy Gavin around New York as he deals with the two daughters and ex-wife (Andrea Roth) of his broken home, relationship woes with a series of other women, alcoholism, Catholic guilt, and ghosts. Ghosts? Yes, Gavin is haunted by visions and lucid conversations with dead family and friends (and with friends like these...).

When Season Four opens, Gavin is facing the music after nearly expiring in the devastating house fire that ended Season Three. Suspected of arson and insurance fraud, Tommy can't even remember what happened, and off-again ex-girlfriend Sheila (Callie Thorne) is the opposite of help. Having been rescued by a super-hot female firefighter (Jennifer Esposito's Nona) intensifies Tommy's insecurities, which manifest as impotency. His young son died in a tragic accident the year before, his elder teen daughter is getting serious with an older rock musician, and an unexpected turnover in the firehouse has everyone on edge. Though it sounds like enough to drive Gavin back to drink, he has the "support" of his family (including sis Tatum O'Neal and uncle Lenny Clarke), who form the AA group meeting from hell.

With Chief Jerry Reilly (Jack McGee) struggling back from a stroke, the door opens to a new chief (Jerry Adler of The Sopranos) and new opportunities to rankle Gavin, who the new chief browbeats into dating his mentally disturbed daughter  (Amy Sedaris). A new firefighter—Larenz Tate's Bart—joins the ranks of Franco (Daniel Sunjata),  Sean (Steven Pasquale), Mike the Probie (Mike Lombardi), and "Lou" (John Scurti), 62 Truck's resident wisecracker whose name isn't Tommy Gavin (the invaluable Scurti also pens a Season Four episode). While trying to rebuild from his impotency, Tommy also runs afoul of the female equivalent of a premature ejaculator (Leary's old classmate and friend Gina Gershon). The visions, the menagerie of women and the horrid behavior of Tommy Gavin suggest a lewd FDNY variation on 8 1/2, and one that's still going plenty strong after four thirteen-episode seasons. Bring on Season Five... 

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 4

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Street date: 6/3/2008

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Kudos to Sony yet again: even after a steady diet of high-def Blu-Rays, Rescue Me looks as clean and detailed to me as just about any TV series I've seen on DVD (the only exception: the darkest of fire scenes). The fine anamorphic-widescreen transfer is accompanied by a 5.1 Surround track that roars to life in the fire sequences.

In addition to the first four episodes of the season, disc one offers "Welcome to the Set" (14:31), a lighthearted series of behind-the-scenes stolen moments. John Scurti dominates these episodes, which largely focus on Denis Leary getting his ass kicked repeatedly and sucking at basketball, as well as on-set goofing around and pranks. Next up is "Walking Thru Fire" (29:50) is a detailed explication of the character development and themes of season four, with comments by executive producer Peter Tolan, writer/producer Evan Reilly, supervising producer Tom Sellitti, Jennifer Esposito, Andrea Roth, Callie Thorne, Tatum O'Neal, John Scurti, Daniel Sunjata, Sherrie Saum, and Larenz Tate (at the end of the featurette, Tolan teases the direction of Season Five). Disc one also features two Deleted Scenes, one from "Babyface" and one from "Pussified."

Disc two houses episodes 5-7. "This is Not a Drill: Breaking Down 'Seven'" (11:49) focuses in on a single episode from concept to scheduling to planning to execution and postproduction, with special emphases on the challenges of location, special effects (including a demo breaking down the elements), and stunts. Commenting are Reilly, Tolan, Tate, production designer Andrew Bernard, director Don Scardino, visual effects supervisor Chris Healer, and stunt coordinator Danny Aiello III. "Tools of the Trade" (5:41) finds Niels Jorgensen giving a tour of the TV firehouse to show off and explain—you got it—the tools of the firefighting trade. Disc Two's Deleted Scenes include three from "Black," two from "Balance," and two from "Seven."

On disc three, you'll find episodes 8-10, as well as "Captains" (8:25), which profiles directors Jace Alexander and John Fortenberry, with additional comments by Sellitti, Reilly, and Thorne. "Burning Embers: Gavin's Girls" (10:40) gets the perspectives of Esposito, Thorne, Roth, Olivia Crocicchia, Natalie Distler, and Gina Gershon about how they see their characters and their relationships with Tommy Gavin. Five Deleted Scenes from "Solo," three from "Animal," and one from "High" round out the disc.

Disc four sees out the season with episodes 11-13 and the self-explanatory "Burned Out: Gag Reel" (3:52). "Firehouse: Real Stories from America's Bravest" (35:30) observes at work and interviews firefighters from Baltimore, Denver, Milwaukee, and Newark about topics such as their first fire and the living conditions of a firehouse (the editing is a bit overeager, but we're still able to get the gist of what the participants are telling us). Disc four's Deleted Scenes hail from the episodes "Keefe," and "Yaz," one from the former and two from the latter. We also get two Minisodes: Married with Children: "If Al Had a Hammer" (5:06) and Starsky & Hutch: "Death Notice" (5:43). A smattering of Sony Previews can be found across the four-disc set, including a teaser for "The Shield—The Final Season."

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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