Stream On: At home and abroad, after 9/11

By on March 19, 2020

New York Cityfirefighter Tommy Gavin deals with a runaway drinking problem exacerbated by guilt over failing to rescue his firefighter cousin during the attacks on the World Trade Center in Rescue Me. (IMDb.com)

The attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001 changed everything, including TV drama. From a New York City fire station to Washington, Yemen and Venezuela, these two television dramas arose to deal with their aftermath and responses.

RESCUE ME (Hulu; on-demand on several other platforms) 2004-2011 [TVMA]

This 2004 FX series focuses on New York firefighter Tommy Gavin’s (Denis Leary) family and the men of his firehouse. Tommy is an impatient, self-loathing, hypocritical, manipulative relapsed alcoholic who suffers with severe survivor guilt and post-traumatic stress as a result of 9/11. He blames himself for his firefighter cousin’s death in the twin towers, while entering into an affair with his cousin’s widow.

Tommy’s cousin, indeed, a small group of the dead that he blames himself for, follow him around, firefighters and chidren, with whom he seems to be in onging communication.

A comedy-drama, Rescue Me is both personal and blunt, while the comedy ranges from “guy” stuff (the station house is teeming with testosterone) to the blackest situations that find laughs even in death and devastation among the major cast. Recurring guests on this popular show included Maura Tierney, Artie Lange, Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei and Michael J. Fox.

The series premiere garnered Denis Leary and Peter Tolan (Analyze This) an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. Tolan also received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series. Leary received another Emmy nomination the next year, this time for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Here’s a trailer for the Season 1 DVD set.



CIA analyst Jack Ryan (right) finds himself back in the field after he discovers a dubious string of bank transfers. (IMDb.com)

TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN (Prime Video; Season 1 on-demand on several other platforms) 2018 [TVMA]

Carlton Cuse (Bates Motel) and writer Graham Roland (Lost, Fringe) are the latest to take on Tom Clancy’s creation Dr. Jack Ryan, the CIA analyst who first appeared in the 1984 novel The Hunt for Red October and has since, like Sherlock Holmes and Norman Bates, transcended time. Ryan has been portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine; in this 2018 Amazon Prime original series, John Krasinski (The Office) dons the mantle.

Here, Ryan is younger than in the Harrison Ford films and not married, although this series takes place in the present. The first season follows him as he is wrenched from the security of his desk job into the field after discovering a string of dubious bank transfers, which are being carried out by a rising Islamic extremist named Suleiman.

Ryan’s commanding officer at the Terror, Finance, and Arms Division (T-FAD) of the CIA, James Greer (Wendell Pierce, The Wire), snatches Ryan from a party to Yemen to interrogate the man assumed to be responsible and his bodyguard, when the base where they are is attacked by rebels.

Director and Executive Producer Daniel Sackheim has said, “What was so great about the Harrison Ford movies was that they were about an everyman hero. He was a guy who wasn’t a superhero. He was heroic, but he was vulnerable. He wasn’t afraid to be scared. He was a regular man and a hero” (IndieWire), and Krasinski, best known as The Office drone Jim Halpert, fits the part like a glove.

The terrorist Suleiman is given personal motives that transcend politics and so is relatable to any audience. The plots are intriguing and solid and the action set-pieces are flashy while apparently realistic.  The Suleiman plot wraps up with the first season, and the second season opens in Venezuela. Here’s a trailer for the first season.

Next time, we’ll go back in the day with young Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. Email me and follow Stream On OBX on Twitter.

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Peter Hummers.

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