Friday, August 26, 2005

The Real World Beckons the Cathode Ray Fray, but Rescue Me Triumphs Over All

The Ray flickered in and out this week, its pulse struggling to reach me through the maelstrom of real world (as opposed to The Real World) offerings. I was engaged in such odd environments that at one point I found myself flailing my arms through a large container filled with water. There was splashing, there was physical exertion, there were… diving boards.

Luckily, the Ray, the sweet soothing soft seduction song of my Cathode Ray Fray came a-calling, and I was able to shut away from fresh air and summer climes to report that which it has become fundamentally vital and absolutely imperative to do so.

Danny’s back on The Real World, but are things back on with Mel?
The Ray demands weekly homage at the alter of The Real World, the place where real life concerns (like remembering to purchase bread and box wine and Cheetos) are replaced with Real World questions such as:

A) How many more times will we be subjected to watching the tape of Danny shrugging off his soon-to-be-deceased mother on the phone, followed by Danny crying his eyes out about how he should have been there for her?
B) Will Wes successfully execute his long-term, exquisitely planned operation to hook up with the mercurial Johanna?
C) When will the first drunken and racially-charged fight occur?
D) Will Mel ever wear anything except skimpy panties around the house?
E) Does anyone really care about the documentary they’re supposed to be working on?

Answer Key:

A) All signs point to three
B) Yes, but pre-hook up drunken fighting and tense, sexually-charged but irrational thrashing about will be replaced by post-hook up drunken fighting and just plain irrational thrashing about
C) Soon
D) Let’s just hope that MTV’s censor dude stays vigilant
E) No, audience included, with the exception of Lacey

But that’s all small stuff. The big question is whither Mel and Danny, the star-crossed lovers who would have easily caught the eye of a certain Globe Theater scribe had the nearly perfect looking duo been kicking it Elizabethan-style circa 1600 or so (the Ray is well versed in history, so don’t ask me, ‘kay?).

Danny’s back at the house, but he’s clearly a changed man. Indeed, he’s grown up before our very weary eyes, having endured a brutal and blind-sided attack to the side of his face, surgery, and the death of his mother all before the mid-point of this Real World cycle. The lad, who appears to have as much integrity as a young Abercrombie-looking model can have in these troubled and wasteful times, is clearly reeling and knows not who to turn to in his distress. It’s the sweet and beautiful, slightly insecure and immature Mel that all signs would clearly point to, but Fate has a funny and cruel way of knocking down paper sailboats on the grand wade pool under the stars.

Rescue Me: Realer (and vastly more entertaining) than the really real world?
Bang the drum from the rooftops. Ram your snout against the tree. Pulse the blinding Ray of the Ray's pulse against the sky like an emblem for our times and all the people look up flabbergasted and aghast and awed and joyed and rebirthed and exhumed from blind apoplexy and say together in Kerouac-ian ecstacy, "Awwwwwwwwwwww...."

Watch Rescue Me.

The Ray demands it of you.

And so do I, truth be told.

It's a story about a group of firefighters struggling to get by in a post-9/11 world that has mostly forgotten its everyday heroes. But at the same time it operates masterfully on two (main) intertwining levels. One level is a gut-punching drama about life and loss amongst blue collar, hard knock guys (and one woman, a firefighter) and the poor bastards they drag out of crushed and burning buildings. There's drug and alcohol abuse, there's deepest and darkest bigotry and hate -- straight out of our own hearts and splattered across the small screen the Ray provides for us all. There's families ripped apart and old unions and relationships torn asunder by the harsh truths and facts and lies and assumptions that stalk us to a one every single second of the ticking clock.

"Why in nightmare's fuck would I watch such a dribbly dark piece of melodramatic ass trash?" you ask while munching distractedly on a pop tart.

Because of that other level, friends of the Ray, the level that soothes and taunts and teases. It's a humanizing level that sucks you into a fictional vortex where belief is suspended across time and space and mind.

And also, because it's gut-bustingly and heavingly and outrageously imbued with hilarity. It's funny. It will knock you down with laughter.

"How can one show possibly manage to embody both of those descriptions at once, you hyperbolic romantic gnome-fool?" you ask while cleaning your teeth with the edge of a paper crown obtained at a local Burger King restaurant.

Trust and Obey the Ray, I'll say first. And then I can only counter with, "It just does."

It does by cleverly intersplicing the two levels while never letting the story fall out of balance. Many of the best series and films of all time manage to accomplish this. Dramas such as Goodfellas and The Sopranos combine brutal violence with some of the rawest and funniest moments ever to hit the screen. Likewise, ostensible comedies such as Swingers and Sideways pack a masterful spoonful of drama, causing the story and moments and ideas displayed in those films to stay with you long after the final credits roll.

Rescue Me balances out into the dramatic category, but it always tempers the harshest moments with relieving and cathartic bouts of madcap comedy. Whereas early in this second season things seemed bleak as Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary, in the role of a lifetime) devolved bleakly into alcoholism, his family snuck off to Ohio, the last strands of his support network fraying and sparking out, things have turned around remarkably as the last several weeks have revved up the comic firepower.

And so it’s shows like Rescue Me that allow a fellow to let a strand of hope shine in, as the Ray smiles its just out of focus smile upon us all.


The Sore Loser said...

As I pick out my ass lint with a used straw, I think that perhaps just this once I will indulge the Ray.

Very entertaining review, by the way.

Eric Berlin said...

Well, I aim to please...