How ‘Rescue Me’ Will End

The seven season run of “Rescue Me,” the dramatic and bitterly funny fire station saga from FX, comes to an end on Sept. 7 – days before the nation marks the 10th anniversary of the cataclysm that inspired the show.

Show creators Peter Tolan and Denis Leary, who also stars in the show as troubled firefighter Tommy Gavin, were left with the task of tying things up. It never looked like it would be upbeat, Tolan sad at a typically raucous “Rescue Me” session at the TV Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills Saturday that featured a revealing moment.

“We always had rather grim prognostications for Tommy Gavin’s end,” Tolan says, before enumerating the possibilities.

“One was that he would actually, in the middle of a fire, just sort of sit down in the middle of a burning room in a chair, and that would be the end of a series: The idea that it was either a suicide or a heroic gesture, that his family would be taken care of after his death since he couldn’t take care of them in life and that whole thing,” he says.

“And we talked about one time him actually at the end of seemingly some very happy, like, settled down thing of him just going down to the ocean and stripping down and just going out to sea.

A third option, Tolan said, was showing Gavin just keeping going on his job and his life.

“That was not satisfying either,” Tolan says. “But, ultimately, we came to realize that the show was that the idea of the show was, will a man who has survived this great tragedy actually survive it or not? And I think in the face of seven seasons of television, you don’t want to say no to that question. You don’t want to bring people along on a journey that long and then say, ‘No, he’s not going to survive.’ It’s just a very negative. So we decided to, at that point, go with something a little more hopeful.”

Ending the series at the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is an appropriate bookend for the series, Leary says.

“Obviously, we’ve dealt with a mixture of drama and comedy with the issues on the show, but there would be a natural feeling of summing up,” he says.

“I’ve always felt that the show just kept the idea of what happened on 9/11 alive,” Tolan says.

The American way is usually to say “that happened, and we survived it, and it’s done. It’s over.”

But 9/11 was much more difficult to get over: “There’s so many more tentacles of pain that are still being dealt with because of that event.”

It was a significant achievement, which hit them about the time they donated Tommy Gavin’s bunker gear to the Smithsonian.

“I don’t think we thought about it much until we got there. And I remember you sort of we sat down for the induction ceremony, and Denis sort of said to me, ‘Hey, this is serious’

“And we realized at that point when they were talking about why this was happening, because the show was actually culturally significant. And, of course, working in television, that’s the last thing you expect to happen to anything you write.

“And I realized it made me really stop and think about how this show, really being the only piece of popular entertainment to spring from 9/11 it’s the only really successful thing from that.

“There weren’t many, but it’s the only one that was sort of accepted and lasted. And I think the real reason is because of the humor of it, that we didn’t always approach it as this as the of course, it was an earth shattering a life changing event for so many people. But because there was so much humor in it, it’s just that this is how we really deal with things, and this is how people move forward. They continue to live, and they laugh, and they bust each other’s balls, and they you know, life goes on. I think that’s what it was.

“I mean, you don’t think that when you are starting it. You just think, “Oh, let’s do the show, and let’s make it the best it can be.” And then, all of a sudden, it’s significant, I guess.”

As in the show, the reverence for the tragedy was balanced in the panel by outrageous humor, as when Tolan, realizing the reporters were geting burned out after two weeks of press tour, decided to enliven the room by dropping his pants.

“Rescue Me,” running Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX, ends its run Sept. 7.

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