"Rescue Me" Minisodes
Where/When You'll See It: FX, Tuesdays, from 10 p.m. to about 10:05 p.m., and afterward on www.crackle.com and Hulu.com.
What You'll See: Remember when "Rescue Me" was an acerbic drama focused on the ne'er-do-well antics of Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin, a dried-out alcoholic whose family and friends always put him in a situation that would best be cured by a good stiff drink? You'll think that way again upon watching a series of 10-minute "minisodes" that FX has trotted out this summer in lieu of fresh episodes of this darkly humorous series.
The writers strike scuttled a new season of "Rescue Me," and it may have all worked out for the best. Last season was a creative mess, with ill-paced plots and shock-value storylines. These "minisodes" focus on the stuff that makes "Rescue Me" fun and memorable -- the banter between Gavin and his fellow firemen.
In the full-length episodes, these scenes usually serve to help everyone blow off steam as Tommy reels from the problems inherent in managing an unstable ex-wife and daughters, a dead son, an aging father and a shrew of a girlfriend/cousin (Hey, it's complicated). These bite-size airings, on the other hand -- even the theme song is cut by two-thirds -- help refresh a tired palate, by serving up dollops of locker-room humor without any of the bathos that flooded last season. The guys joke about diets, cruising at bars, baseball and steroids and seemingly anything else they can think of to bitch about. There are some moments of sadness, but they aren't overwhelming and there aren't any kooky storylines to get lost in, at least for now.
For die-hard viewers who liked this show and flinched last summer when it began going off the rails, these fun snippets serve as a nice reminder about what makes "Rescue Me" worth watching in the first place.
What's at Stake? FX built its reputation on juggling a number of series centered on flawed protagonists, ranging from the corrupt cop Vic Mackey in "The Shield" to the cold-blooded attorney Patty Hewes in "Damages." Because of their raw language and unflinching looks at some pretty amoral behavior, these shows aren't the easiest to like. Take a look at "Dirt" or "Thief," two FX hopeful that found generating a sizeable audience much more difficult.
So when FX does have something worth investing in, it's important to keep the fires going. The last season of "Rescue Me" had fans suggesting the series had "jumped the shark," or left its best days behind. The "minisodes" are meant to instill the notion that the program is back on track, and keep fans wanting more.
After attracting nearly 1.05 million live-plus-same-day viewers for the first minisode airing June 24, and reaching a peak of more than 1.1 million viewers July 8 according to Nielsen, viewership has begun to dwindle. Only 824,000 tuned in July 22, and the minisodes have attracted an average of 979,000 live and same-day viewers over their first five weeks.
Who's on Board? Because these episodes are so short, FX has offered to let a single advertiser walk away with the whole thing. The Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant chain sponsors the series, with a short billboard at the program's start letting viewers know who supports the show and a funny, full-length ad running at the end of the episode. (The setup reminds one of pre-roll and post-roll videos that come before and after a piece of online video.) Set at a bar and aimed squarely at guys who must often deal with a boss or angry girlfriend coming to pry them out of their seats, the commercial is a perfect thematic accompaniment to the program. Online, viewers get served various ads, like the ones for Friskies we saw on Hulu.com the day we watched.
Your Ad Here? Marketers, this stuff isn't for the faint of heart: The minisodes feature the same raw humor that bolsters the original series -- references to genitalia, bodily functions and more are par for the course on this series. Fast-food outlets, movie studios and alcoholic-beverage marketers will be the advertisers most likely to want to develop a link to this kind of content.
Media Buyer's Verdict: Short episodes have appeal, particularly when the network allows a single sponsor to stamp the content with its mark. "You have some sort of ownership of it," said Barbara DiMaria, senior VP-director of national broadcast at Ingenuity Media, the buying arm of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency. Advertisers won't want to "clutter it up" when an episode is so short and has no ad breaks in the middle, she added; that would drive viewers away.
Raunch shouldn't be a concern to advertisers, she argued, as "Rescue Me" has been on the air for a number of years and marketers know full well what to expect. Overall, she added, the minisode offers "a very interesting and unique opportunity that we would definitely explore."