Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tales of Drunken Firefighters and Girl on Girl Action

Back when I was a teenager, I read a book by Joseph Wambaugh.

He was a former cop from L.A. who wrote cop stories. Many of his books were best-sellers. Many were made into movies or television shows. I ended up reading many of his books.

Some examples include:

  • The Blue Knight
  • The Choirboys
  • The Black Marble
  • The Onion Field
  • The New Centurions
  • The Glitter Dome
  • The Delta Star

While I enjoyed all of his books, three of them stood out for me: The Choirboys, The Glitter Dome and The Black Marble. I found these to be some of the funniest, most heart-rending books I'd ever read. The characters were funny and their experiences, some of them, were hysterical. Other experiences, were agonising; they were painful.

As I mentioned, many of his books were turned into movies or shows. The best known was probably the Blue Knight with George Kennedy as the hero. I remember being bewildered by this when I read the book because of its ending.

None of the full-motion renditions of Wambaugh's work ever delivered what the books did. This isn't really a case of the books being better, although they were. The books were brilliant. The movies and shows attempted to faithfully portray the books they mimicked but they failed. Stories in the books that drove the main story and fleshed out the characters were reduced to sight gags in the movies. After some time, I gave up on seeing in the movies what I wanted to see and just appreciated the books. It made it harder to explain them to people though.

Catch-22 was like that. This is probably my favourite piece of fiction. I enjoyed the movie but while the plot was the same as the books, it wasn't the same story. It couldn't be.

Or so I thought.

Over the past year or so, I've watched two or three episodes of the TV show, Rescue Me. It is one of the marquée showpieces of Showcase, the offbeat Canadian TV channel. The flagship show on the channel is probably Trailer Park Boys which is probably my favourite TV show. The channel's commercials for a string of shows including, Rescue Me, Dead Like Me, Weeds and The L-Word are where the subject line comes from.

Because of the hours I work, it is difficult to get into a show and stick with it. I remember a couple of years ago trying to watch The West Wing. I had wrangled two weeks off work at Christmas but I didn't have any money to go anywhere. One of the things I wanted to do was watch some shows, live so to speak, like The West Wing. It would be a treat of sorts.

Of course, I settled down one Wednesday evening and found that they were showing a re-run. Not just any re-run but one I'd already seen. Out of two episodes that I'd seen that season, they had to re-run one of them. The next week… the same thing; another re-run that I'd already seen. I didn't even attempt to watch another West Wing until last month when I had a lieu day and was out all day long before coming home.

Anyways, Rescue Me is the first show I've seen that delivered on the promise that Joseph Wambaugh's books made, that Catch-22 made. Denis Leary's character, Tommy Gavin, shares much with Yossarian. He's more screwed up than anyone else in the show, than anyone else in the show can even imagine, but he's the guy that everyone goes to when they need something impossible and overwhelming done, when they are at their wits' end. He always delivers.

I've been watching the show's episodes in order. I just watched the fourth episode from the first season. I think this is brilliant televsion and I don't remember ever thinking that before.


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