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Rescue Me returns. Now rescue me from spoilers and other annoyances

In television on 09/01/2010 at 6:56 am

Rescue Me, Denis Leary’s dramatic series about an NYC firefighter, his brothers in arms and his other, biological family is back for a sixth season, starting Wednesday, Sept. 1, at 10 p.m. ET on Showcase.

Which is good. While True Blood and Mad Men are still kicking — the former wrapping its season Sept. 12 on HBO Canada, the latter recent Emmy winner in fine form about midway through its 13-episode fourth season on AMC or iTunes — I could use a jolt of the dark comedy that runs deep in Rescue Me.

Which is why I was so excited about the first two episodes of Rescue Me, sent over by Showcase. But before I could watch them, I was tripped up by a danger that every Canadian cable TV watcher knows about and guards against: the Canadian delay, wherein U.S. shows like Rescue Me air weeks or even months before they do up here. Normally I’m pretty vigilant, but it’s been a long summer and I guess I am a bit off my game and before I knew it, I’d read a story that spelled out a bunch of midseason character and story turns.

So let me warn you: Rescue Me’s current season, the one that’s debuting on Showcase tonight, Sept. 1, has just wrapped in the U.S., setting up the seventh and final season, expected to end on or about the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the event around which the series has always — though sometimes very, very loosely — revolved. Coverage of this season finale, especially the buildup to it, has been a lot more intense than in past seasons and so there is plenty to avoid on the web. And, let me tell you, there are spoilers. Nothing that will ruin your day or your love of the show, but still. Left me grumpy. I’m doing yoga. It will pass. And I guess I should just be grateful that Showcase is still carrying the series all these long years. Other series, like White Collar, get dropped completely: a while back our Canadian Bravo! confirmed that although it aired the first season of the stylish series about a detective who teams with a convicted con man, it has no plans to run the second season, currently airing in the U.S. So far, no one else is jumping at it. I’m grumpy about that too. It’s enough to make me wish I had a real life… Nah.

Okay then: Rescue Me. When last we left our hero, the family that drinks together had gathered once again in the bar owned by Tommy (Leary) and  his pals. Teddy (Lenny Clarke) had shot Tommy, blaming him for Ellie’s drunk-driving death the episode before, and was demanding that they all just watch Tommy bleed to death to pay for his latest sin. This series has never shied away from wild swings toward heavy melodrama, but usually it doesn’t stay there long. 

As the sixth season begins, they’re still hitting the drama button pretty hard. You won’t be surprised to know that Tommy survives, but the journey has left him shaken and he’s not alone. The move back toward the series’ trademark black comedy is very slight, which is not surprising. Death in the family, both continued alcoholism and furious born-again recovery, a firehall threatened by recession: these are not funny. And while it has always traded on its swings from comedy to drama, a series that claims 9/11 will have to come back to it again and again. Maintaining balance will be harder than ever in this sixth and the final, seventh seasons. I think it will lean more than before toward drama, but I hope it doesn’t stay stuck there. The firehall goofing and the comic mutterings are very enjoyable, but we also need the break. Leary and company do the intensity so well, it can be hard to watch, never mind maintain. Though it is a fine thing to watch. The final scene in episode 1 is a perfect, bleak example. I could describe it, but that would spoil it. You should watch.

Denise Duguay

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