Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
It was supposed to be a sober, nostalgic, reflective visit with Rescue Me writer-producer-star Denis Leary, showrunner Peter Tolan and castmates Steven Pasquale and Callie Thorne as the iconic FX firefighter hour wraps up seven seasons on Sept. 7, four days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. What it turned into Saturday morning at TCA was the most raucous and entertaining panel of the 12-day event to date, as Leary and Tolan put on a show for critics bleary-eyed from the nonstop coverage that finally wraps Monday.
Things started to get crazy about halfway through the 30-minute panel, when Leary observed with his usual manic energy, “You guys have spent, what, three fucking weeks here talking to TV people and now you’re fuckin’ bored.” Tolan then picked up the ball and added, “I’m going to take my pants off.” That led into a fresh rant from Leary, who railed: “By the way, USA (Network) is fuckin’ raiding Rescue Me. (Steven) Pasquale’s shooting a pilot (Over/Under) for them. Callie (Thorne) is starring in a show (Necessary Roughness) for ‘em. I’m writing a pilot for ‘em.” Tolan: “I’m doing very mild janitorial work. … And working for just a few weeks as (USA programming chief) Jeff Wachtel’s fluffer.”
Shortly thereafter, to help boost the excitement of the festivities, Tolan stood and pulled down his pants to reveal very oddly colored briefs. Much laughter and applause ensued. A critic then tried to ask a serious question: Does Leary fear that his role on Rescue Me is one he will now always be identified with, perhaps to his detriment? Tolan decided to intercept that one: “When you say that Denis will be remembered for this part, I think you’re forgetting Operation Dumbo Drop.” The room roared.
Earlier in the panel, the men proved far more serious and reflective, expressing pride at what Rescue Me has been able to accomplish. “It was designed as a show that would keep the idea of what happened on 9/11 alive,” Tolan said. “The show wound up being the only piece of popular entertainment to spring from 9/11, the only thing to be accepted and has lasted. And I think the primary reason for that was the humor. It said, this is how we really deal with it and move forward.” Leary added that ending the series around the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was sort of “a good time totem. There was a natural feeling of summing up. Plus Peter and I really hated each other by the end and (FX topper) John Landgraf was sick of giving us notes.”