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What I Watched Last Night

The biggest collection of head cases any American network has ever had the balls to produce in television history returned to FX with a rerun of the fourth season opener of Rescue Me. While the networks serve us reality-show slop and bad sitcoms and then wonders where all the viewers have gone, recovering boozer Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) and the men of NYFD Station 62 are back elevating into an art from the state of being incredibly fucked in the head by bad childhoods and worse adulthoods. It's no wonder guys like this don't mind going into blazing warehouses. For some of them, death would be easier and cheaper than the years of therapy it would take to undo the messes they've become.

Which is why Rescue Me is one of the best shows television has ever seen. So God bless creators Peter Tolan and Denis Leary and whoever is running FX these days.

Tatum O'Neal returns as Tommy's alcoholic/crazy-bitch sister Maggie, a character I've become rather partial to. She's been married for nine months to Engine 62 firefighter Sean Garrity, who finds out in the opener that besides drinking, one of Maggie's hobbies is porn - particularly porn involving guys hung like elephants. Naturally, this makes average-guy Sean feel inadequate. "You don't want your cock to be that big," Maggie reassures him. "Your life would be terrible! You wouldn't be able to buy pants!"

Later, instead of throwing out Maggie's big box o' porn ("The box is your friend," Maggie says) he decides to give porn watching with Maggie a try.

Sean: "What's he going to do with the pepper mill?"
Maggie: "That's not a pepper mill."

Divorced and conned by some grifter skank out of his life savings, nice guy fireman Kenny Shea picks up where he left off last season: screwing a nun with an insatiable appetite. But that's okay, Kenny tells Tommy, "she's only a nun until the end of the month." In what may be the most decadent example of public-place sex anyone might conceive, Kenny and the good sister celebrate the orgasm in the church balcony on the pipe organ bench. While Mass is going on.

On the homefront, Tommy's teenaged daughter Colleen has decided to no longer be lesbian. "That was so six months ago," she tells Tommy. "I'm through with girls. Girls are crazy." Instead, she's dating a 26-year-old musician and smoking pot. "Oh, the pot made me forget: I drink now," she states right before puking up a load of schnapps. Seeing his daughter starting down the road to becoming the wreck he is, Tommy confronts his ex-wife Janet about Colleen's new direction. Janet, of course, knows all about it. "It's the good pot too," she tells Tommy. "Not the cheap shit we used to get."

Of course, Tommy is still seeing and conversing with dead people he couldn't save in the line of duty, particularly his firefighter cousin Jimmy Keefe, a Ground Zero fatality who shows up to bitch-slap Tommy in an elevator.

But his discussions with dead people are nowhere near as good as his conversations in seasons past with Jesus, who would occasionally show up in Tommy's pickup truck or in his apartment prying nails out of his feet. He was a really hip Jesus who made a lot of sense, and I've missed him since he drove off in a yellow Lamborghini with an incredibly hot Mary Magdalene a season or two ago.

*

Every time I see Man Vs. Wild and think of the cameraman who has to tag along to film survival professional/host Bear Grylls' journeys into some of the most inhospitable places on the planet, the kamikaze pilot bit from Cheech and Chong's first album pops into my head:

"Honorable kamikaze pilots of Rising Sun Empire of Japan: Today you going on most dangerous mission. Today you take kamikaze airplane high up in the sky, find Yankee aircraft carrier, bring kamikaze plane down fast, crashing on deck, killing yourself and all aboard. Now, before we have ceremonial saki toast, are there any questions? Yah, in the back, Sakimoto."

"Honorable General, sir!"

"Ah so!"

"Are you out of your fucking mind?"

In Friday's premiere of the show's second season, Grylls was plopped into the middle of the Florida Everglades to see how long it might take him to reach civilization without being eaten by an alligator or a black bear. Dressed in street clothes, the only survival tools Grylls carried were a hunk of flint for building a fire, a knife to cut branches and stab wildlife, and a plastic canteen. These would, I guess, represent the bare minimum a civilian might have if, say, you happen to be flying with Lynyrd Skynyrd or your drunken airboat captain slams into a big cypress tree.

In light of the things you can't carry onto a commercial flight anymore, his basic survival necessities are a bit unrealistic. Most people under the age of 70 don't even own or carry even a penknife (yet Bear's blade is substantial enough to skin a deer), and the only citizens walking around with a chunk of flint in their possession are Boy Scouts at jamboree. But still, if you did manage to have these things on you because Underpaid Sleepy Boarding Gate Guard was manning the X-ray machine at O'Hare and you somehow ended up in the middle of the Everglades, you'd be damn glad you watched last night's show. Grylls was careful not to turn any protected wildlife into a meal, but he was able to pass on some important survival tips:

Survival Tip 1: First order of business is to get yourself a really big-ass walking stick at least as tall as you. It might not be weapon enough to spear a black bear for dinner, but it'll get you unstuck from swamp mud (which will suck you in same as quicksand), and keep your face from being torn to shreds walking through sawgrass. And if you get bored easily, you can poke alligators and rattlesnakes with it.

Survival Tip 2: At the end of the day, keep your feet dry. You would dry them, along with your clothes, in front of a fire you've built from palm tree fuzz on a platform (using palm tree fonds to cover it) you've built in a tree high above the swamp. After 12 hours in the water, your worst friend is trench foot, especially if it gets all infected. "If you can't walk, you die," Bear instructs. I don't recall how you and the platform keep from going up in flames in your sleep, however, and there are apparently no survival skills known to Bear that will keep you from being eaten alive overnight by swarms of mosquitos.

Speaking of water, once you use your shirt to filter out all the decaying leaves and slime floating about, you have to boil swamp water to drink it without keeling over from bacteria and parasites. I'm foggy on where Bear got the metal cup in which he boiled the water to fill his canteen. Hopefully someone on the crashed plane will have one you can use.

Survival Tip 3: There's simple a way to tell the difference between a poisonous coral snake and the scarlet kingsnake ("Red touching black, friend of Jack; red on yellow, kill a fellow"), but most of us would forget the rhyme, especially if you had a gaping head wound or something. So for chrissake, just stay away from the snakes, okay?

Survival Tip 4: If you look hard enough, you can find enough stuff that won't kill you from making a snack or a meal out of it once you're able to find a spit of dry land with pine or oak trees on it. Not that you'd actually want to eat carpenter ant larvae (gritty and bitter, but four times more protein than beef) or skinny little tree frogs (bite the heads off so they don't kick and squirm on the way down), but still. There are no poisonous frogs in the Everglades, so eat hearty; however, there are poisonous toads, so stay away from anything that looks like a frog with bumpy skin.

You can eat turtles, too; their shell is like a big crock pot. Just kill it by stabbing it in the head with your big knife, and stick it in the campfire you've started using palm tree fuzz and your hunk of flint. When the shell is brittle enough to break apart with your big-ass stick, it's done.

Reaching civilization after slogging around the swamps for three days, Grylls faced his biggest survival challenge once he hopped a fence and reached a really long stretch of desolate highway: Hitching a ride from a passing motorist who wasn't a serial killer.

*

I had to stay up long enough to see the midnight showing of the respectable but often too-philosophical (as films directed by Robert Redford tend to be sometimes) The Legend of Bagger Vance on TBS.

Matt Damon portrays Rannulph Junnah, a local Savannah, Georgia, golf hero born to parents unable to spell "Randolph" who goes off to World War I to lose his mind and his golf swing. Will Smith portrays Bagger Vance, a caddy who helps him find both after many tall doses of Zen once Damon/Rannulph answers the philosophical question of "how drunk is drunk enough?" during a card game for 10-year-old acquaintance Hardy Greaves:

Rannulph: "Now, the question on the table is, 'How drunk is drunk enough?' And the answer is that it's all a matter of brain cells."

Hardy: "Brain cells?"

Rannulph: "That's right, Hardy. You see, every drink of liquor you take kills a thousand brain cells. Now that doesn't much matter, 'cause we got billions more. And first the sadness cells die, so you smile real big. And then the quiet cells go so you just say everything real loud for no reason at all. That's okay, that's okay, because the stupid cells go next, so everything you say is real smart. And finally come the memory cells. These are tough sons of bitches to kill."

Amen, brother. Amen.

-

Check out the What I Watched Last Night library.




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Posted on June 19, 2007


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