Gotta admit; Rescue Me was a tough show for me to watch when it first came out. Absurdist humor interspersed amongst the hard-hitting after-effects the firefighters experienced post-9/11 was a whole lot to go through in the summer of ’04, with 9/11 still stinging the eyes on the regular. But the incredibly talented cast, fronted by Denis Leary as world-weary alcoholic firefighter Tommy Gavin, made it compelling viewing. While the show wandered away from 9/11 as the seven seasons progressed – as it should, otherwise it would have gotten mired in its own pathos – the finale episode was an incredibly powerful one that tied back to the pilot.
But I’m not really here to dig into the show itself. It’s good, go watch it. I’m here to look at the box set, and see what it’s got going on. So, does this box set live up to the show itself? Why yes it does. The discs deliver that crisp movie-like feel of the episodes. Rescue Me was a show that constantly dazzled me, with feature-film looks and breathtaking cinematic camerawork. All of that is right here on these discs. There’s absolutely no skimping on the look; each an every episode feels lovingly transferred.
Are bonuses what draw you to box sets? Me too! Mill Creek outdid itself with this set, putting together a set that gathers together not only the entire series, but loads of extras. Long-time fans will find plenty to love here, from blooper reels and commentary tracks to behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews with real firefighters. Almost every single disc has something extra to enjoy. Seriously, if extras are your thing, this set is incredible.
A few of my favorite extras?
“The Look” – digging into how things were filmed, from art direction to production to the cameras themselves. I’ve always thought that the look of this show was excellent, and getting the behind-the-scenes 411 on how things get set up, shot (18 pages in 11 hours? OH MY GOD Y’ALL. That’s incredible.) And of course all the logistics. The episodes look absolutely incredible, and the story is so good that I’d never really sit back and appreciate the detail. After seeing this feature, I re-watched a few episodes and sat, slack-jawed, at the incredible set design and on-location shots. Well worth the almost eleven minutes. Check this one out, along with “Authenticity”, both of which can be found on Season 1, Disc 2.
“Firehouse: Real Stories from America’s Bravest” – snippets of stories woven together, told by actual firefighters. From the rough calls to first year, pranking, slang, and that bond the job creates between the responders within the firehouse and nationwide. And hey, FD vs PD hockey is a real thing! There’s humor here, along with heartbreak, straight from the mouths of those who deal with it every day. And get ready to shed a tear when they talk about losing one of their own. Not only is seeing the real deal fascinating, but as a “truth vs. Rescue Me fiction” comparison? It’s amazing how close the show got to actual interactions between all these responders. Bonus: I tried to duplicate the salad the firefighters made. It’s delicious. Trust.
“Surviving Season 5” – a major character death. Alcoholism. The bar. Musical numbers. Michael J. Fox! I loved Season 5, with its shifting character dynamics and developments, so this behind-the-scenes look at the season is everything. Some of the best jokes of the season are here, along with some of the most touching. (Oh man, when Tommy downs that drink…) Getting the dish on this season from the cast was incredible, especially from Daniel Sunjata’s Franco, and his ideas on 9/11. I’ve always thought those conspiracies were crazy, which is why I really loved this storyline and Franco’s willingness to look at everything, regardless. It made me empathize with that viewpoint, even though I’m not a believer myself. Quite possibly the best “look back” featurette in this set.
– Dennis Leary and Peter Tolan chew the fat about the last season, and the show itself. They rag on each other, rag on the show (well, the season they think is the weakest), and the craziest times on set. They also poke fun at the award trash fire (why didn’t they get more awards???) and each other’s work in general. (#Diego) It’s a fun, laugh-filled look at everything, and it’s a great goodbye to the show you’ve been bingeing.
Then there’s the little bits that add up. The banter between Leary and Tolan. The gag reels that…well, watch ’em. The deleted scenes. Yeah, your head is spinning. There’s a lot here. And it’s fabulous.
Have I convinced you yet? Go watch. Catch all the extras. This is a great set, and well worth your binge time. You’re welcome.