"Rescue Me - The Complete Fourth Season" DVD Review
June 13, 2008 by Zach Demeter
When it comes to Rescue Me, there are few shows that I enjoy more. Not only is the show a witty mix of humor and drama, but it continues to excel at its craft throughout the seasons. By the time the fourth season premiered, I had long since devoured every one of the thirty-nine episodes that preceded it and grew to love not only everyone of the characters in the show, but also grew to appreciate how thoroughly the show exceeded at its craft. I never felt disappointed with a single element of the show until season four came about, where it almost felt like it switched up the rules a little too much.
After the third season ended on a cliffhanger with Tommy trapped in a fire, the fourth began with the fire being blamed on Tommy and as an act of arson. The majority of the season is spent not only on this but also the birth of Tommy’s possible new son (or possibly his now deceased brothers). The season doesn’t just focus on Tommy, however, as all of the firefighters in the 62 Truck house get equal screen time; Garrity’s new marriage, Franco’s possible marriage and Lou’s continued courtship with an ex-nun and Chief Reilly’s new life after the heart attack. It’s a wall-to-wall season of plots and story developments and one that will definitely take the viewer for a ride.
Allow me to explain the “disappointed” comment above. I first watched this series based off only good reviews and Leary’s continued promotion of it on The Daily Show, where he and Jon Stewart always seemed to have a good time bickering with one another. When I finally got around to watching the first episode of the series, I was hooked; I immediately bought the first two seasons on DVD and had them watched within a week. I quickly caught up on the third season and by the time the fourth came around, it felt like it’d been forever. What I felt I was getting out of the fourth season wasn’t what I wanted and that immediately disappointed me.
However, and this is key, I just came off of re-watching all three seasons once again before I dug into this fourth season DVD set and, quite honestly, I’m not sure what I found so unspectacular about this season before. Perhaps it was the week-to-week wait for a new episode, but watching all of these episodes back to back proved to be much more entertaining affair. The real draw of the series is the season reaching plot that starts in the season premiere and ends somewhere in the middle or sometimes not even till the end of the season. That’s the real drawback of watching it week-to-week as it airs; you begin to lose some of the subtle connections and intricacies of the plot, which make the stories feel a little less woven about one another.
So, now that I’ve seen the season a second time? Well, it’s true that the season is a bit…softer than others and portrays a weary Tommy Gavin who is finding himself a brand new father as well as facing up against a strange feeling of the unknown caused by being drugged by Sheila the night of the fire and also can’t seem to come to grips with being saved by a female firefighter, who carried him out of the burning beach house. It’s a heck of a time for Gavin, but everyone in the firehouse is having a difficult time and as with the past seasons, the firemen all find a common bond with one another. In addition to the usual, a new fireman is introduced into the mix which adds its own fair share of issues to the mix, especially since he’s not the same type of probie that Mike was in the series premiere.
The most fascinating thing about this show is I find it almost a better viewing the second time. During my recent viewing of the past seasons I found jokes even funnier than the first time, even though I knew they were coming. With this fourth season it was a mix of the same; it wasn’t as fresh in my mind, as an overall season, due to its thirteen week air schedule, but this time I knew what expect and was greatly impressed by the results. It’s truly a wonderful series that seems only get better with age.
While there are bits here and there of the season that still seem a bit odd, but overall structure of the season was very good. The expansion of the secondary cast as well as the introduction of new blood and the change for Tommy’s character (but not nearly as drastic as the happy pills change we got in season two) made for an entertaining time. The only downside is I didn’t feel there were as much talking-to-the-dead as the earlier seasons had and it almost seemed, at times, that it was no longer something that was happening to Tommy. Until Johnny showed up, anyway.
It was far from a perfect season, but like 24, even on its worst day Rescue Me is light years better than some of the other crap on television, so it goes without saying that this season comes Highly Recommended, just like the others.
I remember being slightly disappointed in the third season sets extras department, but this season is absolutely astonishing in how much is included to check out. While the presentation, double disc thin pak, slipcase and menus, are identical to past seasons, this set does boast an embossed slipcase with texture rain effects. Why? I don’t know, but whatever Sony wants to do to get this series to fly off DVD shelves is fine by me. I honestly don’t care much for the cover, as the original with rain hitting him as he had his back to the camera looked much better. Too bad they didn’t offer a variant cover.
Video and audio for this set are, again, similar to what we got in season four. Unfortunately there was no Blu-ray release of the season this time around (and now that I have a Blu-ray player to boot!), so there’s that downside but overall it’s a fine presentation. The fire sequences can get a bit over smoothed at times and some of the green screen/CGI work is a tad obvious at times, especially with the clarity this image offers, but it’s nothing too horrendous. It’s a solid presentation and the 5.1 mix really spreads out the ambience throughout the room, with helicopters, pedestrian chatter and traffic noise all engulfing the viewer into the scene.
Moving onto the extras we first come upon “Welcome to the Set” (13:51) bonus with cast and crew talking about some of their favorite times on the season four set. Whether it’s beating up Dennis Leary (which they seem to talk a lot about) or pulling pranks on people, it’s a nice, fun little extra that has a curious widescreen presentation boxed into a 4x3 window. Occasionally the video turns fullscreen for a bit, which just makes it even weirder.
“Walking Thru Fire: Stories of Rescue Me Season 4” (29:50) discusses the story arcs of the fourth season and is basically a recap of everything that progressed and unlike the previous extra, this one is in anamorphic widescreen. This extra contains plenty of comments from cast and crew and its near half-hour run time makes for a perfect extra to sit down and recap the season with. While this is an overview, it doesn’t keep other extras on the set from going into specific episodes themselves, such as the disc two extra “This is Not a Drill: Breaking Down ‘Seven’” (11:49) which talks specifically about that episode and, in particular, the tragic fire that the episode revolves around.
“Tools of the Trade” (5:41) goes over the various hardware that firefighters use, ranging from the engine to the halogens to the breathing masks. This is one of two real-life focused extras on the set, with the final one being on the fourth disc in the set, titled "Firehouse (Real Stories from America's Bravest)" (35:28) where firemen (and women) talk about their first fire, tragedies on the job, the probies and even women in the firehouse. If you questioned whether Rescue Me accurately represented firehouses, then simply watch this extra—you’ll realize just how accurate this show really is.
On disc three we start out with "Captains" (8:25), which is a discussion of the directors on the show. The usual cast and crew comments apply to this extra, as does "Burning Embers: Gavin's Girls" (10:40), which has each of the many Gavin girls commenting on Leary himself and the Tommy character he so perfectly plays. A few promos for other shows, "The Shield - The Final Act" (0:37), and services like the “Minisodes” website with two episodes included here, "If Al Had a Hammer" (5:06), "Death Notice" (5:43), from Married…With Children and Starsky and Hutch respectively, being advertised as well. They quite literally just chop a 22 minute episode down to five minutes, which is quite remarkable, if not seeming like a giant waste of time.
Of course spread throughout each of the four discs are deleted scenes pertaining to the episodes on those discs. Every one of the scenes is in anamorphic widescreen, although the quality is quite questionable. There are twenty-two deleted scenes in all that total up to 29:43 and there are quite a few great scenes removed from the episodes. Some feel like extended versions of what made it in, but others were simply entirely removed. The best thing about these scenes is they were almost like watching all new Rescue Me, so that long wait until season five and the minisodes that Leary mentioned on The Daily Show is a teensy bit more bearable.
That wraps up the extras and the set. It’s a really solid addition to the Rescue Me DVD library and while it may not be the strongest season of the four, it’s still worth watching. The twists and turns that the season takes will continue to surprise you and will leave you wanting more. Highly Recommended.
Rescue Me: The Complete Fourth Season is now available on DVD.