“Rescue Me” enjoyed a long run on FX, but Denis Leary apparently wasn’t quite finished with it. So he’s essentially taken the comedic half of the show’s fire-department antics and (with some help) transformed it into “Sirens,” a moderately amusing and decidedly raunchy USA half-hour about paramedics. Based on a U.K. series itself derived from a book, the show has a surprisingly long creative pedigree for that fairly simple premise, inasmuch as so many gags hinge on penises and porn. All told, it marks a departure for USA less for the show’s genre than its tone.
Set in Chicago, the series focuses on a trio of EMTs: Johnny (Michael Mosley), who is in the process of redefining his relationship with his girlfriend Theresa (Jessica McNamee); buddy Hank (Kevin Daniels), who is both gay and black, and gets most of the best lines; and Brian (Kevin Bigley), another one of those simple-minded newbies who, like so much else here, feels lifted almost directly from Leary’s last series.
“How much porn are you watching these days?” Theresa asks Johnny, a question that winds up dominating the premiere, and unexpectedly draws actress Rachel McAdams (albeit by name only) into the crossfire.
Subsequent episodes bring in Lenny Clarke (another “Rescue Me” alum) and Jean Smart as Johnny’s quarrelsome parents, and the little matter of how the paramedics can expunge a particularly disturbing image from their minds after walking in on what turns out to be a lewd non-emergency.
Mosley and Daniels bring an easygoing banter to the central roles, and the series has considerable fun with the bluer aspects of the job.
That said, the show’s preoccupation with below-the-belt comedy risks growing a trifle tedious even after the three previewed episodes, and the sex-gag emphasis feels less compatible with USA’s drama-heavy lineup than with Leary’s former home FX, which relishes pushing the basic-cable envelope.
On the plus side, “Sirens” (created by Leary and Bob Fisher) does deliver some laughs, which is as good a place to start as any. But given how long USA has been talking about expanding its portfolio to encompass half-hours, this maiden effort just isn’t worth sounding any alarms to herald its arrival.