The hit FX series Rescue Me is finally on Blu-ray as part of a big boxed set. Every episode from its seven-season run is here complete with a 1080p HD transfer and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 or 5.1 mix. Mill Creek also included most of the bonus features from the previous DVD releases, which all are quite impressive. In fact, this might be the best selection of bonus features on a tv series to date. The show follows Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) and his co-firefighters in the center of the metropolis of New York a couple of years after the events of 9-11. It's a raw, emotional, and often darkly comic look at the lives of the firefighters both in and out of the firehouse. The show is made on a grand scale and it shows in each episode. There are some video and audio issues here and there, but the show speaks for itself and the giant treasure trove of bonus features are all excellent. Highly Recommended!
Shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001, Denis Leary and Peter Tolan came up for the idea for a show called Rescue Me, which followed the lives, both in and out of the firehouse, of New York City firefighters a couple of years after the tragic, world-changing event. Tolan and Leary had previously worked together before and are avid fans of firefighters, which eased their chemistry and work into this amazing show that lasted for seven years. Rescue Me certainly has a great deal of chaotic and scary scenarios where firefighters battle blazes throughout New York, but the real meat of the show is the personal lives of characters in and out of the firehouse.
The show starts out a few years after 9-11, where Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) is still trying to put the pieces together from a terrorist attack that left his figurative brothers and his literal cousin dead. Tommy is one of the best firefighters out there, but his home life is a complete disaster -- his wife left with the kids, he's become a raging alcoholic and, oh yeah, he sees ghosts of the people he was unable to save.
At the fire house, home to 62 truck, Tommy's good friend Lou is the funny Lt. in charge, Franco is the heart throb, Sean is the idiot, and Mike is the new guy in the firehouse. Spending time with these guys can be quite funny throughout each episode as they weave their nightlife and work life through the cracks that can be the cause of the some hilarious jokes.
What makes Rescue Me so good as how raw and realistic it seems. There are so many shows today that try to be politically correct in the current climate, but Rescue Me is anything but politically correct. Each episode feels natural and gritty, along with a group of firefighters that have mutual respect for one another even though they give each other a hard time. Another great aspect of the series is that it can perfectly balance the comedy and super intense and emotional storylines together. One minute, you're laughing at the firehouse trying to go through sensitivity training, but then the alarm sounds off, and everyone turns on the serious cap and it's life or death in a big blaze, where it's not uncommon for a character to perish.
There are a few instances throughout the series where big emotional impacts don't pack a solid punch like they should, which seems to be the result of rushing certain storylines, but this series is often gut-wrenching when it delivers. Rescue Me is one of those rare shows where you grow to love every single character and bond with each other them. It's a tribute to firefighters everywhere in the most realistic way and I still can't get enough of it.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Rescue Me The Complete Series comes with 16 Blu-rays spread across two separate hard, blue, plastic cases. It's a bit flimsy on the inside where some of the disc holders can come loose very easily. There are no digital copies, inserts, or booklets either. The two cases are incased in a cardboard sleeve followed by another hard clear plastic sleeve with artwork.
Rescue Me was actually one of the first TV shows released on Blu-ray back when the format first debuted -- it is a Sony Pictures Television co-production, after all -- but until this full series boxed set, you could only purchase Season 3 in high definition, which has been a shame, because this isn't a show you want to enjoy in SD.
Featuring a 1080p HD transfer in a 1.78:1 aspect ration, Mill Creek drops all 93 episodes plus bonus features onto 16 discs -- about seven episodes per discs -- which seems to hinder the video presentation at times.
The first two seasons, in particular, suffer from hot contrast, which can blowout background highlights. Noise is also an issue. Season 3 improves the contrast, but you'll see noise and grain, especially in darker scenes.
Still, despite its flaws, this Blu-ray set is an upgrade over the DVDs. Detail is sharp and vivid in well-lit interiors or sunny outdoor shots. Closeups reveal individual long hairs on Denis Leary's head and his facial stubble quite well here. The firefighter outfits will show the heavy textures and smoke burns and rips here and there, but never in dark sequences. Other aspects of New York and the firehouse never truly show the craftsmanship of the brick buildings or even the fire and embers in each show. It all looks rather flat with the exception of a few scenes here and there. Wide shots of the big metropolis never has any real depth either.
Colors are muted, for the most part too, with flashes of bright red fire trucks or orange and yellow bursts of fire. There is rarely any green or blues in the show, but is rather a muted or decaying look without a ton of primary colors. The skin tones look natural when well lit, but they can jump from warm to anemic from scene to scene. Black levels are never too deep or inky either. These elements do improve as we get further into the series, but it never fully corrects itself. I think if there was more room on the discs or even several more discs to spread the content out, I think some of the issues would have gone away.
While the packaging implies that Rescue Me offers 5.1 DTS-HD MA for every episode, the first two seasons actually feature a 2.0 DTS-HD MA stereo mix. This stereo mix is fine -- dialogue is clean and sound effects and music are full -- but when you step into Season 3 and here the 5.1 mixes, you realize the first two seasons lack both dynamic range and immersion. In truth, from Season 3 on, everything just sounds clearer, and the show's world becomes fuller.
In other words, the 2.0 tracks have some nice moments, but the 5.1 mixes are more vibrant and robust. The opening theme song has more bass and rear instruments and sounds grander. The fires have more room to breath where you'll hear embers cracking and more debris falling around you, along with a heavy low end at times. The sound designers also do a terrific job of recreating New York ambiance, from subways to car horns to people yelling. The dialogue in the 5.1 mix is better as well and comes across richer with the different tones of voices. There are no audio dropouts, pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills of any kind here.
There are a ton of extras on almost every disc in this set. There are select audio commentaries from the cast and crew, behind the scenes, featurettes, deleted scenes, blooper reels, interviews, and more.
(All bonus features for seasons six and seven are featured on the Discs for season six.)
The Rescue Me Complete Series is definitely worth your time and money. This is an amazing tv show that makes you laugh, brings the tears, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The acting and camera work are all excellent as well as the story in each season to bring you a little closer to each character, despite a couple of small tangents. As a Blu-ray, the a/v presentation is flawed at times, especially in the first two seasons, but everything improves from Season 3 onward and, regardless, it's an upgrade over the DVD. The massive amount of extras are all fun to watch and are quite informational and funny. Highly Recommended!