the review site with a difference since 1999
Reviews Interviews Articles Apps About

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents

Rescue Me: The Complete First Season (2005)

"I ain't no hero. I'm a fireman. We're not in the business of making heroes here. We're in the business of discovering cowards, 'cause that's what you are if you can't take the heat."- Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary)

Stars: Denis Leary, Daniel Sunjata, Andrea Roth, Mike Lombardi, James McCaffrey, Jack McGee, Steven Pasquale, John Scurti
Other Stars: Callie Thorne, Charles Durning, Natalie Distler, Michael Mulheren, Trevor Heins, Olivia Crocicchia, Dean Winters
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains language, violence, and nudity)
Run Time: 09h:54m:00s
Release Date: 2005-06-07
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-B+B+ B


DVD Review

On the surface, firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) represents the heroism and courage generally considered of his profession. He makes daring rescues on wobbly ladders and even risks his life to save a dog from a fiery structure. His first appearance showcases his chaotic persona in a tough speech to a group of new guys concerning the dangers of their job. Tommy does exhibit all of the characteristics displayed in these examples, but he is traveling down an almost-certain path to self-destruction. On September 11th, his best friend Jimmy was killed, and his ghost (or a manifestation) consistently haunts Tommy at his home. Spirits of other dead firefighters and the kids he failed to save also follow him around and make things even more difficult. Tommy faces an impending divorce from his wife Janet (Andrea Roth)—the mother of his three children—and cannot avoid slipping back into the throes of alcoholism. To state it simply, life has definitely been better for Tommy Gavin.

Rescue Me: The Complete First Season chronicles the daily travails of Ladder 62 in New York City and the guys’ struggles to maintain a normal life amidst the chaos of the stressful profession. Hanging above every moment is the shroud of 9/11, which killed four members of their house and traumatized everyone else. The other primary guys include compulsive gambler Chief Jerry Reilly (Jack McGee), ladies’ man Franco Rivera (Daniel Sunjuta), the not-so-bright but genial Sean Garrity (Steven Pasquale), old-school Kenny Shea (John Scurti), and the “probie” Mike Silletti (Mike Lombardi). This series aims to present a realistic portrayal of the fire house environment without the perfect characters depicted in the typical series. Each guy must deal with their own problems, some worse than others, and no one is portrayed in an overly positive light. However, the less-polished approach makes them more compelling due to this closer connection to real life.

The early episodes focus considerably on Tommy’s demons represented through dreams and encounters with Jimmy and other dead figures. While they retain a presence in future stories, the later episodes focus more on the supporting characters and the communal nature of the firehouse. They spend their days crudely discussing women, making ethnic slurs, and attempting to outdo the other guys. Their feelings about the opposite sex are a far cry from being politically correct, and positive relationships are extremely rare. The “boys’ club” atmosphere is threatened in Immortal by the arrival of Laura, a female firefighter who must prove herself to the group. Her presence brings their outdated attitudes to the forefront, but things are never that easy. Laura wants to become a trusted member of the group, but she will also play the gender card if necessary to make her life easier.

Unlike its F/X network predecessor The Shield, this series is less concerned with big emotional moments and more focused on the mundane elements of life. Tommy actually lives across the street from his ex and spends considerable time spying on (and attempting to destroy) her relationship with her new boyfriend. Franco must deal with the knowledge that he may have a daughter, but he seems equally concerned with his status on the firefighters’ calendar. Kenny spends his free time crafting awful poetry to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, and his worries about that validity dwarf some larger firefighting issues. Inches spends more time on a silly bet within the house than a traumatic event involving a colleague. Butterfly shows Tommy at the breaking point, but the story spends considerable time on an amusing subplot involving the psychiatrist and his porch.

Although it may fall a bit short in emotional resonance, Rescue Me does include its share of harrowing moments. Mike saves a guy in dangerous fashion and must deal with his strange requests for most of the season. His attempts to be nice to the man backfire in disastrous fashion several times. Tommy faces several family disasters that only enhance his stress and movement towards drinking. He also spurns the wrong girl (without knowing her name) and receives her wrath twice over. Chief Reilly makes an especially wrong decision in an argument with a gay firefighter that could destroy his career. This character is good at his job but especially difficult to like, as he treats everyone but his buddies in awful fashion. The most amiable guy is probably Kenny, but even he is not completely exempt from making a wrong choice.

Sensitive viewers should be warned that Rescue Me is not your typical network drama. It goes even further than its F/X predecessors depicting numerous graphic sex scenes that only barely avoid full nudity. The depiction of women is not especially forward-thinking, as most remain solely concerned with bedding the lead characters. This series definitely comes from the male perspective, which does make at least partial sense when considering that a large majority of firefighters are men. This might limit its attractiveness to female viewers, but it does lend some unfortunate authenticity to the stories. The only other drawback is the Von Bondies’ atrocious theme song, which ranks among the worst of any dramatic series in recent memory. Even given these minor issues, the show’s inaugural season works especially well and delivers 13 unsentimental, memorable stories.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Although Rescue Me depicts the actions of fire fighters, there are limited awe-inspiring moments of large doses of flame. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer actually utilizes muted colors and a more realistic tone, which limits its overall effectiveness. Some darker moments also include a decent amount of grain and distract a bit from the presentation. Considering its television origins, however, this transfer provides a solid foundation for an entertaining viewing.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This release offers a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that works nicely when the firemen are struggling to save residents in cramped buildings. It also projects the dialogue in a clear fashion, which is the most important aspect of this conversation-heavy series. The rear speakers are utilized sometimes, but the overall sound field lacks of the depth needed to make this one stand out as an outstanding transfer.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Hitch, Full Throttle, Stripes, The Job
10 Deleted Scenes
2 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Denis Leary and Peter Tolan on Guts and Sanctuary
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Sneak Peak at Season 2
  2. All New Season on FX!
  3. Gag Reel
Extras Review: Although it falls short of the premier television releases, Rescue Me: The Complete First Season offers a competent selection of extras. Each individual feature is described in the sections below:
Audio Commentaries
Peter Toland and Denis Leary provide interesting feature-length commentaries for Guts and Sanctuary—the season premiere and finale. Both have an enjoyable rapport and offer two worthy discussions on the series. Their conversations are fairly scene-specific (and sometimes veer into laughing fits), but they do give some insights into the creation process.

How It All Began
This 14-minute featurette includes an interview with creators Denis Leary and Peter Tolan, who describe the series' origins. Leary's cousin was killed in December 1999 with five other firefighters, an event that pushed his interest in their job. This piece is a bit sloppy and offers some unfortunate spoilers that should not be on the first disc, but it nicely showcases Leary's humble nature and intelligence.

The creators discuss the realism and other positives of the show during this 17-minute feature. The actors speak about the benefits of having actual firefighters on the set and feedback they've received concerning the series' merits. We also learn about the decision to film in New York City and to address 9/11 without exploiting it.

The Cast
One of the strongest elements of Rescue Me is its sterling cast of relative unknowns, which enhances its believability. In this 16-minute piece, Tolan and Leary discuss each cast member and their early struggles to find the right actors. We also receive some basic descriptions of the individual characters, which are unnecessary.

The Look
The last of the four featurettes runs for 11 minutes and offers insight into the creation process, including the decision to use digital instead of film, which is seamless. They also discuss the monstrous scope of the production and the limits of the smaller budget on basic cable. Another interesting element is the shooting process, which follows the movie format and does not go episode-to-episode. Instead, they jump across episodes and shoot whatever is needed at a particular location consecutively.

Gag Reel
This typical extra includes the typical line mistakes and actors unable to keep a straight face that often appear on DVD releases. This one lasts seven minutes and includes lots of bleeped profanity from the cast. Leary keeps saying "glove compartment" instead of "garbage disposal," which provides a good laugh. Much of the silliness involves Steven Pasquale, who cracks up many times.

Deleted Scenes
About seven and a half minutes of deleted scenes appear here, and most are simply variations on the original moments. There are a few more sequences involving Tommy seeing dead people, which are nice, but nothing is too amazing. One notable change is a beating that is much rougher and lasts longer than in the finalized product.

Preview Trailers
This set includes four previews for Hitch, the Discovery Channel's Full Throttle series, Stripes, and The Job. All provide widescreen transfers except for Stripes, which is the original theatrical trailer in the full-frame format.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

Following The Shield and Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me became the third success story for the FX network in three attempts. Similar to its predecessors, it pushes the boundaries of basic cable and provides riveting drama. Bolstered by an excellent cast of mostly unknown actors, this series promises to only get better as its second season begins.

Dan Heaton 2005-06-30