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'Rescue Me:' Post mortem

Before we get on with our day, I'd like to briefly address last night's series' finale of "Rescue Me."

A warning: If you have not yet seen and have every intention of seeing, then do not read another word.

Massive spoiler alert right here, and to go on risks ruining it for you, so fair warning.

OK, warning delivered. If you want to read, head to the jump. If not, do not. Ready? . . . OK . . . did I mention spoiler alert?

Now, my question: Why Lou? Kenny Shea -- played effortlessly by Northport's own John Scurti -- for so many years was one of the truly beloved characters of not just FX but of primetime; he was rough, funny, smart, passionate, ironic, sharp . . . a whole spectrum of emotions and characteristics that made him so unique at Ladder 62 and in this series.

He was, to my mind, almost as central a character as Tommy Gavin. So why did he have to die? I've thought a little about this, and believe I have a reasonable answer: Because someone we loved on the show had to die. It wasn't going to be Tommy, because FX executives effectively told Denis Leary and Peter Tolan that to end this journey just before 9/11 with Tommy's death would have a been a tonic far too bitter to swallow -- that this journey had to end on an up note, not a down note.

That's a commercial TV instinct for you, and I believe if this show had been produced in Britain, Tommy would be gone by now.

So Lou was the compromise. Lou would die, and in his death there would be humor -- a box of chocolate cake mix to surfeit the dust that was lost in the car! But Lou had to die because -- I believe -- one of the reigning messages of this series was that people die, and firemen die at a greater rate than most people -- because they are heroes and are placed in situations that directly compromise their safety and, of course, mortality.

Three hundred and forty three members of the FDNY died on Sept. 11; no one expected them to die that day. Each and every one of them was loved by a wife, a daughter, a son, a constellation of family members and colleagues. Lou was as well. Lou opened the episode in flashback paying tribute to five fallen comrades; it was probably Scurti's finest moment over seven seasons. It was also Lou's tribute to himself -- the one he deserved.


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