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San Jose Mercury News

"Rescue Me," the dark, comic firefighter drama broadcast Tuesdays on FX, returned last week for the beginning of the end. The show will wrap up next year, shortly before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, an event that inspired the series and has been revisited repeatedly.

"We always felt that if we made it that far, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 would be a stopping point," said Denis Leary, the show's star and co-creator, with Peter Tolan.

Leary portrays Tommy Gavin, the caustic, alcoholic firefighter at the center of "Rescue Me" who is the "most frantic and emotionally undone member of the crew of 62 Truck," according to Ginia Bellafante, a television critic for The New York Times. The character's reckless bravado frequently scuttles his personal life, even as it makes him an exceptional firefighter.

In a recent interview at his production office in SoHo, Leary talked about the final season, his character and the twisted firehouse anecdotes that inspire the show's scripts. The following are excerpts from the conversation.

Q: How will the show handle the anniversary of 9/11?

A: The final episodes will lead up to the anniversary. During the last three episodes the characters are going to these meetings to plan the parades and memorial services.

Q: So you've shot the final shows already?

A: Yes, we're done shooting. It was interesting because we were doing it a year in advance and we have a lot of firefighters on the set, so we got to watch their response. There's a thing in the final scene, where down on the waterfront there's a new boat called the 343, which was just commissioned. The name on the hull of the boat is done in steel from the World Trade Center. It's a $27 million boat, and the only reason they have them is because they realized on 9/11 that they need that service from the water, right down by where the buildings went down. Watching the boat, which the department was kind enough to give us that day, roll in was pretty emotional for a lot of the real firefighters. So for better or worse, I think we did the right thing.

Q: Why has 9/11 remained such a central theme on your show?

A: Because it's firefighters. The show has been the story of the male ego, the heroic male ego. The idea of dealing with life and death every day, and that struggle to fit into real life when you work a job that has no real connection to real life, except in the sense that you may die five minutes from now. Or you may save a life. This event was so catastrophic for these guys. It's still below the surface, but they can't think about it every day because they have to jump on a rig and go back to work and jump into the building. But it's like Vietnam or World War II for them it's something that will never go away.

Q: How did you develop the Tommy Gavin character?

A: He was based on two specific guys. The crew that we created was a smudged version of a real crew that I was very close to; I loved the unit and how everyone related to each other. The guys on the show even tended to look like the real guys the good-looking dumb guy, the good-looking smart guy, the lieutenant who knows everything and has a lot of experience but likes to eat. They're great, rich characters. My guy was a combination of two guys, one who had massive personal problems in terms of his marriage and personal life and one who was a great firefighter who had a different set of problems.

Q: Tommy is haunted literally and figuratively by the people he couldn't save. Is that meant to reflect the psyche of the firefighter, or is there something deeper you're trying to get at?

A: No, that's really it: It's survivor's guilt in its truest form.

Q: With the end in sight, is the show beginning to wrap up the characters' stories?

A: The story of the last two seasons is: Do they have enough to keep at it? Especially in Tommy's case he's old enough that he can take the money and run, and the 10th anniversary becomes that opportunity. You've done it, you're still alive. Take the pension, go home and spend the rest of your life with your family. There's no shame in it. It's just that you're letting go of the life, and it's almost like being a gangster or a retired ballplayer. You're going to be seeing it on the news, but it will be from a distance. You lose the clubhouse atmosphere and you lose the adrenaline.

Copyright 2010 San Jose Mercury News
All Rights Reserved
July 8, 2010

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Some of you crack me up. It's a fictional tv show! Calm down. The fire service has been around for a long time. I don't think this show will hurt us. I actually love the show. It's like a male soap opera and very entertaining.

In my opinion it does portray firemen in a good light for many things. Leary also raised a lot of money for fire departments with this show. Some of the drama and problems are actually fairly accurate as well. Maybe not all of you see it, but as a fireman in a large city, I see more people like in the show. I used to work in a suburb and it was much different, but when you work with 2000 other firemen in a completely urban environment, it just ends up being a different atmosphere.
I love this show! I record it at home and we record it at the station. It has been the source of countless debates and laughter. They also have some incredibly deep story lines and fantastic writers..........

But, the first two episodes of this season seem to be missing some of the life that the previous seasons had. Not trying to start a war, just wondering if anyone else see's it this way? For example, TG gets shot, Teddy is the shooter, no jail time? TG is deciding between Janet and Sheila last year and now he lives in an a new apartment with Janet? What is with the new apartment? It seems like we missed an episode or two.

I'll still be tuned in tomorrow...
I like the show; Its somewhat interesting to me, I agree with a lot of you I'd hate to see it go. The only problem that bothered me when I watched the show was they screwed all the true textbook firefighting terms up, like for example: the characters refered to themselfs as "crews" l am not a firefighter ;but even someone as simple as me knows that all firefighters are arranged into companys and they have captians and leutineants, batalion cheifs etc. HELLO! THATS HOLLYWOOD FOR YOU! I guess from all this reserch I've been doing and all these firefighting textbooks and firefighter exam preparation books I've had my nose stuck in lately I must be starting to think like a firefighter or at least I think I am.LOL Did anyone else pick up on that?
"It's like a male soap opera" No argument there.

And I wondering how many thousands of men and women had the notion that shows such as; As The World Turns, All My Children, The Guiding Light, etc. was in fact the way real life was supposed to be. I can think of several, just in my small little world.
Um I think you're a little off there.

That's very realistic to say crews. We say it in the DCFD all the time. I know they say it over there in the FDNY as well. Sure we have companies as well. For example we have 6 Engine as a company. There's four platoons(shifts). If I'm on #1 platoon I usually refer to the other guys with me as my crew. They also have a Lieutenant assigned to the crew on the show. I don't know what you're seeing wrong with that. They might not have a Captain because the house captain is assigned to another shift.

That goes back to the last post I made. I think a lot of this is realistic because it's similar to me. Departments will operate differently, but being on a large east coast department, we operate very similarly to other large east cost departments. DCFD and FDNY are always sharing ideas with each other. I even know a few guys that started their own training company(Traditions Training) which is run by DCFD and FDNY guys. So almost all of the terminology in the show is the same as what I use.
AMEN ! I so agree with you! That is the exact reason why I am on this network to talk to real men and women who do this job everyday, I want to write my book and show a true factual portayal of firefighters and to get as much information and knowledge and to actually think like a firefighter to show what a great deed and service these men and woman do for our country and that people like them are truely making the world a better place. If I can I want to upload an excert from my book for everyone to read. If anyone knows how I can do this please give me some feedback I want to share my story with you all!
Oh, okay. I wasn't aware of that. The main character Tommy Gavin WAS THE CAPTIAN!! LOL thats what I thought was so screwed up about it and in season 2 the way the captian(the main character) talked to a female firefighter I recall he told her that the only thing she was good for was giving head and making a sandwich! excuse my language ;but I'm just reciteing the facts; If that was real life that person would have lost their job and gotten suspended and If that was me I would have been taking a Halogen tool (I think I spelled that correctly) to (Dennis Lerrys characters )Tommy Gavins head sorry Captian or not. Sorry that one scene really stuck out for me. I'm a crazy B.I.T.C.H like that.LOL I know its just a soap opera tv show LOL
Tommy Gavin isn't the Captain. He's just the senior firefighter on the crew.(most time on)
hmmm... I could have sworn he was at least during season 1 2 and3 I could have sworn others refering to that character as a Captain.
Nope. Also note that he rides in back. A captain wouldn't ride in back. He also doesn't wear the light blue button up like the lieutenant.
I wonder if Katherin has even really seen "Rescue Me"?

As for me I stopped watching in season 2 and have never come back....dont like it. Although I do know guys like that on the job as well....it may be hard for some people to stomach but while this may be a noble profession, the noblest of people dont always come on the job. I know guys that are awesome firefighters that I would want to save my kids if they were in trouble, but at the same time wouldnt let them watch my kids if I was out to dinner cause they are absolute scum bags. Thats life folks.

The only thing that I dont like about it going off the air is becuase it was a firefighter themed show and I think the fireservice needs more exposure becuase people do have a skewed view fo what we do.
I think what everyone needs to realise is this..The show is about the FDNY it's filmed in New York. New York Firefighters are part of the cast & crew.....Bottom line is it doesn't matter weather you like it or not ,the only opinions that matter are those of the Brothers in the FDNY.

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