By Tressa Eckermann, Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, FX said goodbye to what was easily its best show, “Rescue Me.”
It was a consistently fearless show that premiered only a few months after 9/11 and dealt with the emotional job that day brought to the men of the fictional 62 Truck Company in New York and, in particular, Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary). When the show first started, he was a recently-separated, alcoholic, womanizing father of three who had a penchant for dangerous stunts. Gavin was in one of the towers and lost his best friend and cousin, Jimmy.
Over the course of seven years, “Rescue Me” was anything but reserved. It was brutal and uncomfortable, but it was always honest. It would frequently test the audience, but even if there were complaints, they never adapted to them. It brought fearless, touching subjects that no one else would touch. Loss, survivor’s guilt, family drama, cancer victims and relationships—they all got the “Rescue Me” treatment.
Leary, one of the co-creators, writers and producers was always truest to the show’s subjects, the firefighters. Yes, these men are heroes, the show said, but they are also just men.
They made it clear from the get go that normal was never going to be normal again for these men after that day. That was easy enough to see from the first scene when Tommy has a conversation with the deceased Jimmy, which would become a running theme on the show with Tommy talking to people like his dead father, brother and Jesus.
The show’s central message seemed to be that life moves on, however painful that process may be, and we must all adapt in whatever way we can. One of the many things that made “Rescue Me” brilliant was its characters. Ladies’ man Franco, poetic food addict Lieu, the two Shawns and the slightly challenged, confused Mike – these were men who you knew or, at the very least, men you wanted to know.
Where other shows only touched on that tragic day, 9/11 hung over “Rescue Me’s” story, becoming its touchstone, not spoken about but always in the background. It was Leary who bolted the show to the ground, even through its crazier moments. With his rangy body, oddly handsome world-weary face and stuttered delivery, you could buy him as a firefighter who’d seen just a little bit too much but who couldn’t imagine anything else for his life. Fire was the only thing he had; it was the only thing he was good at.
For those of us who stayed dedicated, it’s hard to sum up those seven years. The show spoke for itself, particularly with its brilliant season finale. “This ain’t a job, this ain’t an occupation—it’s a calling,” Tommy told a group of wide-eyed recruits in both the series premiere and finale. And “Rescue Me” was anything but a normal show. So we bid a bittersweet goodbye to the men of 62 Truck.