Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rescue Dennis Leary

There's a difference, the old acting adage goes, between playing anger and just being angry. The former is entertaining... The latter is fingernails on a blackboard.

I was a huge fan of The Job, the last Dennis Leary-Peter Tolan series. It was hardcore--and hysterical. It was a great example of "playing anger." (It was also a great example of "brilliant but cancelled" -- It went one season before ABC pulled the plug.)

Rescue Me? Great example of "Being angry." Despite the fact that it is virtually identical to The Job (firemen instead of cops), the new show has rubbed me the wrong way almost since day 1. I recognize that the racist, misogynist, intensely homophobic attitude of most of the characters is probably an accurate reflection of reality... But it's one thing to accurately reflect reality, and another to do so in a way that alienates people (like myself) who want to like the show.

The Job found a good balance. It was able to tell those stories without offending me. Whereas Rescue Me just turned its (already reprehensible) protagonist into a rapist.

And, adding insult to injury, they portrayed the vic (his ex-wife) as enjoying it. Talk about "fingernails on a blackboard."

It's hard to believe Susan Sarandon (who is guest-starring this season) sat still for this shit.


Blogger dirk.mancuso said...

You're the only person I "know" who watches this show. As for the rape thing? Um, very uncomfortable with the whole message that was sending (and to whom).

You have to wonder where the writers think this is taking them storywise, because I would really hate to think this was just a scene thrown in with no purpose other than so-called titillation.

Think I'll stick with THE SHIELD.

6/28/06, 1:05 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Oh, dude--I *don't* watch the show. Gave it most of the first season, hoping it would start to "do it" for me the way The Job did. (And if you haven't seen The Job, I give it my *highest* recommendation--It's on DVD.)

And I don't think this was out of character--but it's like putting a child in jeopardy, or hurting an animal: these things may be properly motivated, but they're the most crass, manipulative kind of storytelling, and will always pull me right out of the fiction. In this case, it starts me psychoanalyzing the writers (Tolan & Leary).

A screenwriter friend of mine on a message board I frequent summed it up this way: on The Sopranos (which I adore), it's acknowledged from the get-go that these characters are very, very bad people... so their flashes of humanity are surprising. Endearing, even. We're always hoping that Tony will one day redeem himself, even as we acknowledge how unlikely that outcome may be. Ditto for Michael Chiklis, et al, on The Shield (another show I love).

But Rescue Me inverts that conceit: Leary's character is presented as basically a decent man who occasionally does bad things... which worked for the womanizing, the drinking, the pill popping, etc... but raping his wife? I don't care how many loved ones he lost on 9/11, how much he's wracked by survivor's guilt, or a bad childhood, etc--It's impossible to believe he's a "decent man" after that.

6/28/06, 2:09 PM  

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