It was Christmas morning and I woke up with a cold. I hadn’t had any big plans for Christmas, so the cold wasn’t a big deal but there’s something about being sick on Christmas that just isn’t all that fun. In an attempt to get rid of my foul mood so early in the day, I checked around the ol’ series of tubes for any DVD sales that might be going on and stumbled upon a sale on Amazon—buy one, get one. Nothing popped out at me, but then there was Rescue Me—both seasons for under forty dollars. I had some extra Christmas cash lying around so I made one the more expensive “blind buys” of my DVD purchasing history.

Of course, this isn’t to say I just bought the show without some research. While FX isn’t a network I regularly watch (or even at all, really), I had heard great things about the show and whether it was the fever that made me buy the seasons without much thought, I’m glad I pulled the trigger. When the DVD sets arrived the following week I was treated to a show that pulled you right from the start. The world of Tommy Gavin and Engine 62 was enthralling through both of the first two seasons and I was done with the DVDs before I knew it. I was able to catch up on the third season a few weeks later and found the third season to be just as strong as the first two, even if it did kill off one of my favorite characters in the final episodes of the season.

Season three of Rescue Me picks up right where the second left off with Tommy coping with the death of his son. While is family is torn apart, Tommy’s ex finds comfort in the arms of Johnny, Tommy’s brother. Typing this I realize it sounds like a big soap opera, but it’s more in the veins of The Sopranos in terms of strengths of storytelling. While there’s a lot of sleeping and sneaking around, the show continues its strength in backing up the “love drama” with the same kind of drama we’ve come to expect from the show. Midway through the season we find that the crew of Engine 62 we know and love might be disbanding, with Lou going off on a boat with his girlfriend, Tommy retiring, Franco taking a test to get higher in the ranks and Mike possibly moving firehouses, we’re shown in the end just how much like brothers these guys are. Not only is the scene next to the 9/11 memorial a touching one due to the historical context, but the way each one of them (sans Tommy) admits their intentions of staying with Engine 62, it’s clear that one of the strongest reasons behind their change of heart is due to the thought of leaving their brothers behind.

While season three of Rescue Me may have shocked more than the previous ones (mainly due to the controversial scene with Tommy and Janet in “Sparks”) and I’m sure the religious groups are none too happy with the show after the second season, but Lou’s dating of a nun this season would probably send them over the edge. Tommy’s reaction to this situation is flat out hilarious, however, and is worth any controversy it may have caused. Still, even with the more shocking elements, the third season stays at the same level of strength as past seasons and with guest stars Susan Sarandon and Marisa Tomei, the acting caliber on this season only went up.

Despite the fact the season ended on a cliffhanger (I recall the past two ending on one as well though, so I guess one can’t be too picky), there’s little to not like about it. The boys are all the same as before and Sean remains strongest joking ground for the season, creating some the greatest dialogue between Tommy, Maggie and Franco that I’ve seen yet. If you haven’t been watching this series, then do yourself a favor—while shows start to show their age after their first two seasons (The Sopranos and 24, I’m looking at you), Rescue Me retains the same level of quality it started out the gate with.

Even if they did kill Johnny. Bastards.

Packaged the same way as the past seasons (in a two disc, two thin pak slip case), the trio of seasons looks great on the shelf lined up next to each other. Menus are also identical to past seasons with the main theme over the main menu and menu sub-divisions set up the same as well. Chapter stops are included as well.

Video and audio on this release is strong and clear. While I had interlacing issues with past seasons, this season doesn’t seem to offer up any errors (they may have paid closer attention to the transfer this time around due to the series Blu Ray release) in the video department and the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio sounds clean and clear throughout the series, offering up plenty of ambience in the fire fighting scenes, including nice rumbles from the subwoofer throughout. The shows varied soundtrack from the eclectic bands it showcases in its scenes also sounds great coming through the speakers—and I highly recommend the Rescue Me soundtrack should you enjoy the music in the show as it collects some of the best songs from the show.

Special features on this release are nice and full. There are deleted scenes spread across three of the four discs (disc two contains none), all worth watching, several behind-the-scenes featurettes and my two favorite things on the set, the blooper reel and the “Rescue Me Comedy Short.” The featurettes cover the locations of the shooting, a summary of the third season, a “comedic” skit with Dennis Leary’s stunt double (comedic in quotes because it’s not funny), two featurettes on firefighting in real life in New York and some extra behind-the-scenes footage in the “Behind-the-Hose” featurettes.

The featurettes are all worth watching, although they curiously lack much input from Dennis Leary. In fact, the only time we see him speak is in the “Behind-the-Hose” featurettes, which is just on-location shooting. There is a lot of newly recorded material with the cast and crew of the series, but despite Leary’s strong appearances on past special features, he’s completely absent this time around (as are the episode commentaries). Still, what we get from the rest of the cast and crew is all worth watching, especially the words we get from real firefighters on the third disc featurettes, which detail the traditions of the fire houses in New York and what it’s like fighting fires in older buildings as well as the high rises.

While it’s no secret I love bloopers, they’re actually overshadowed on this release by the “Rescue Me Comedic Short.” Initially I had figured this would be something like Leary’s “Shorties Watchin’ Shorties” for some reason, but was pleasantly surprised to find it to be just what the title says: a comedic short. Through this featurette we learn what each one of the guys fears are (except for Mike, I don’t think we ever see his) and the end result with Lou and Sean puking all over the place is hilarious. While I knew I’d miss the show after finishing the third season initially, I didn’t realize how much I did until watching this short. It encompasses the greatest the show has to offer in terms of humor, showing just how crazy the cast can get with their characters.

Besides the “Rescue Me Season 4 Preview” on the fourth disc, there isn’t a whole lot left in the special features department. What we do get is entertaining, but I would have really enjoyed some commentaries, especially on the final few episodes. The season four preview is nothing more than a clipshow of the third season with some dialogue I didn’t recognize, so it could be new, but other than that it won’t spoil anything coming up in the season. It does give the wrong premiere date (as does the insert, stating season four starts on June 12th and will be on Tuesdays. It’s been moved to June 13th on Wednesdays since this set went to printing), but aside from that it won’t ruin anything, so the spoil wary have nothing to fear.

Overall the series is one of my favorites currently airing. I’m glad that it doesn’t air against any of the regular shows I watch in the normal TV season, as having to choose between 24 and Heroes is hard enough, let alone having to have Rescue Me go up something else. I cannot stress how enjoyable this show is to watch and I can only hope the audience expands. At the very least, the next time you see the series up for sale, do not hesitate to purchase. There’s nothing on these sets that will make you regret purchasing them and past seasons as well as the third season all come Highly Recommended. Do not miss out on this show!

Rescue Me: The Complete Third Season will be available on DVD and Blu Ray June 5th.

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