"You wanna know how big my balls are? My balls are bigger than two of your heads duct taped together. I've been in the middle of shit that would make you piss your pants right now! Uptown, downtown, Harlem, Brooklyn. But there ain't no medals on my chest, assholes, cause I ain't no hero. I'm a fireman. We're not in the business of making heroes here. We're in the business of discovering cowards, because that's what you are if you can't take the heat. You're a pussy, and there ain't no room for pussies in the FDNY!!!"
— Tommy Gavin, on the bravery of the FDNY
Rescue Me is a drama series created by comedian Denis Leary and Peter Tolan. The series follows the lives of the firefighters of FDNY station Battalion 15, Engine 99, Ladder Company 62 (referred to as a whole by the firefighters as "62 Truck"), as they deal with the job, their personal lives, and the strange quirks and oddities that seem to only happen to firefighters (such as the fact that women, no matter what their preference, line up like geese for firemen). The series starts three years after 9/11, with many in the house still reeling from the loss of four brother firemen, one of whom was Tommy's cousin and best friend. From there, it is a long, slippery slope into cheating, homosexual bashing, questioning life itself, and death. The show was well received by both viewers and critics for its willingness to tackle every subject from alcoholism to rape.
The show ran for seven seasons and concluded on September 7th, 2011 - less than a week before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which was a major point within the last season as well.
This show contains examples of:
Actor Allusion — In a Season 2 Episode,Tommy is insulted at being told he resembles Conan O'Brien. Denis Leary and Conan O'Brien are cousins in Real Life
The Alcoholic — Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. He'll use prescription drugs recreationally when he can get his hands on them, too.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer — The entire cast can enter into here at times. Tommy's a drunk compulsive liar, Franco nearly got his station into a brawl with another, Sean Garrity is a bonehead and Mike is still unsure of himself. They still fight fires and save lives.
Butt Monkey — Probie Mike is constantly treated as such, being the station's newest and most sexually confused member. Even after he outgrows the name Probie, Mike is still treated this way, to the point that he loses the very band he created.
Call Back: The series finale ends with Tommy giving a lecture to new recruits, much like he did in the first episode.
Sheila's sex and fire speech also gets a callback in the episode, when Tommy announces his retirement to her.
Needles: Maybe you gotta be an asshole to be a boss, I don't know. But I guess we're gonna find out.
Cliff Hanger: Seasons 3 and 5 both end on fairly agonizing cliffhangers.
Conflict Ball / Idiot Ball: Much of the show's drama would be avoided if the characters would occasionally tell each other the truth. Tommy in particular is a pathological liar, even when it's in his best interests to tell the truth.
Downer Ending — Season 1 ends with Tommy's wife having left him and taking the kids. Two ends by Tommy's only son being killed by a drunk driver. Three has Tommy trapped in a burning building. Four ends with Tommy having his Dad die next to him at a minor league ball game. Season Five ends with Teddy shooting Tommy. Most individual episodes end this way, too.
Everybody's Dead, Dave— In the series finale its revealed that only Lou survived the previous episode's cliffhanger. Actually subverted, it's Lou that died and left the others behind.
Firemen Are Hot: Thoroughly averted in this pretty realistic series. There are a few fair ones, but most of the guys are normal-looking people. Firefighters are employed for their credentials after all, not their looks. In one episode Gavin did encounter a women who seemed to hold this belief. She was passively waiting in her room for somebody to come for her while the building was burning up around her and comes on to Gavin when he tries to escort her out, all in the pursuit of some Rescue Romance scenario.
Gambit Roulette — Pulled off successfully by, believe it or not, Lou! After she betrayed him way back in season two, Candy returns in season five to make amends with him. They fall in love, they make plans together, they get married, they plan a vacation, Lou steals all her money and then sics the cops on her, they- wait, what? The look on his face as he reveals his diabolical plan is simply priceless.
The Ghost — Tommy's mother, taken almost literally with the season one finale.
Hair-Trigger Temper — Sheila is called this by Tommy's latest love interest in the season five finale. Tommy has shades of this too.
Heroic Comedic Sociopath — Partially subverted with Tommy. He does lots of morally questionable or downright bad things for fun and profit, but he isn't in it for wanton destruction or to fulfill some psychological compulsion. He's just angry and being mean is, for him, easier.
The Immodest Orgasm — Janet, so very much. Of particular note is the bed and breakfast in season five. She and Tommy make so much noise that everyone else in the place comes out into the hall to see what's going on... just in time to see them break down the door.
Don't forget about Gina Gershon's guest appearances, who'd refuse to be touched after getting off.
Infant Immortality — Subverted several times, but most notably at the end of Season 2 with the death of Tommy's only son, Connor.
Instant Death Bullet — Subverted at the end of season five. Teddy takes it into consideration that Tommy won't die right away, and plans to sit and watch him "fade away".
Interrogation by Vandalism: In one episode, Tommy begins dropping Sheila's expensive house decorations on the floor until she tells him what happened when he was unconscious. She still doesn't tell him, but she makes up a pretty believable lie.
Karma Houdini: Teddy calls Tommy this, but considering how crappy Tommy's life is, the trope itself is averted. Sheila, on the other hand, fits this to a T after what she pulls in Season 3 (see Moral Event Horizon).
Teddy himself is one. He doesn't get any jail time for shooting Tommy.
Killed Off for Real — Once a season. Tommy's mother, Connor, Johnny, Jerry Reilly, Tommy's father, and Ellie.
Lou in the series finale.
Magical Realism: If you believe Tommy isn't hallucinating when he sees ghosts of his dead cousin, brother, father, son, various other firefighters, the vengeful spirit of his disabled godson Damion, and, in the final scene, Lou. Oh and Jesus in season 2.
Manipulative Bastard — Yeah, yeah, we know that Tommy has this in him. But Sheila and Janet are constantly fighting for this title.
Mother Daughter Threesome — In the episode "High", Mike is at a bar, and a hot cougar asks him if he's up for a little mother-daughter action. But then he finds out that she's the daughter...
Never Trust a Trailer: The Season 6 finale made it seem like Damian was killed. Instead he suffered major brain damage and became a vegetable.
The series finale implied that everyone except for Feinberg and Needles was killed from the explosion. The only casualty was Lou.
No Ending: At least it feels that way after the finale's cold open subverts a Kill 'em AllGrand Finale. In the end only Lou dies, Janet names her baby Shea Gavin after Lou but otherwise things go on as normal. The only other things that are really different is that Tommy's better off than before, he won't be turning to alcohol to drown his sorrows and he now sees Lou's ghost instead of Jimmy. And Lou's ghost seems less vengeful and more helpful.
"Off the wagon" doesn't begin to cover it. At the rate that he gets on and off, either he must be really good at catching up, or that's a very slow wagon.
Played with to death in the finale season where he almost falls off three times.
Our Ghosts Are Different — The menagerie of ghosts Tommy witnesses verbally lambaste him, insult him, tear him down, bring him up, and eventually, abandon him and set his apartment on fire, only to return once Tommy and his buddies set up the bar. In Season 6, Tommy finally gets tired of hearing them talk about how everything is his fault, and turns on Jimmy and Connor. His best friend-cousin and his son.
Tommy: You're the hero?! Huh?! How about all the times I pulled your ass out of shit, huh? Huh? Who was the hero then, asshole? Huh? Christ almighty, half the medals you had on your chest were because I didn't goddamn want 'em!
(kicks Jimmy in the gut)
Tommy: The one time I take my goddamn eyes off you, you wander off! Ends up being the biggest goddamn tragedy in the history of the fire service, huh, and you're the hero and I'm the goddamn goat?!
Redemption Equals Death — After Tommy's dad passes, his family reflects on the good times they had together. Except for Tommy.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The episode "Seven." All of the firefighters managed to rescue seven children, only to find out that all of them were burnt to a crisp by the time they reached the ground. And then their mother dies later that night.
Status Quo Is God: Franco, the station's Casanova, actually does have a few serious girlfriends that he doesn't cheat on, but they always eventually dump him for some (generally shallow) reason because the writers like him better as a player.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight — When Janet's wheelchair-bound boyfriend (played by Michael J. Fox) confronts Tommy in the firehouse and finds out that Tommy slept with Janet, he responds by squeezing Tommy's balls - for seven minutes. Lou comes by in the middle of it and has a brief conversation with Tommy, barely raising an eyebrow, then leaves.
Wham Episode — The aptly named Happy in season two changed the entire direction of the show, proving that the writers have the balls to take anything and everything away from Tommy, and the tragedy is brought up on a regular basis to this day.