Providing further proof that there are apparently few new ideas under the sun comes Sirens, a remake of a Channel 4 series from the UK that lasted one season in 2011. The spotlight is on this new version as it is the first big TV project taken on by Denis Leary since Rescue Me wrapped in 2011. Too, this show follows the bent of workplace comedies like Barney Miller, the newly minted Brooklyn Nine-Nine and even Leary’s old sitcom, The Job, where the goofy antics and lively banter behind the scenes is superseded by the do-gooders’ on-the-job abilities.
It would all be incredibly frustrating if Sirens wasn’t presented as well as it is. There are still some issues to be addressed, but overall, Leary and his smartly chosen cast of quirky Chicago-based EMTs do a fine job out of the gate.
As all pilots should, we are quickly introduced to the three characters who are going to remain at the heart of every episode: Johnny, a charming and capable paramedic with women problems played by TV vet Michael Mosley; his best friend and partner in lifesaving, Hank, who also happens to be both gay and black (Kevin Daniel); and the naïve new guy, Brian (Kevin Bigley).
We’re thrown into the deep end as the trio responds to a call of a gent who has suffered a heart attack and passed out. They quickly bring the guy back from the brink (surprise, surprise), but it puts Johnny back in front of Theresa, his on-again, off-again police officer girlfriend. She’s sporting a brand new partner, a handsome man that Hank refers to as “Denzel,” and expressing her frustration that Johnny will not move in with her.
There’s a diversion involving a gent with a soda bottle crammed up his rectum (Hank: “Why didn’t you start with something smaller like a carrot or a zucchini?” Man with bottle up ass: “I was going to make soup later.”), but the most important plot movement was Johnny learning that Theresa is going on a date that night. As any good sort of ex would, he and his EMT buddies drunkenly stalk the restaurant and watch as she rebuffs an advance by her would-be paramour. And she writes him a ticket.
That’s pretty much it. A whole lot of exposition, but also a welcome move away from the well-worn three-act sitcom structure with an important lesson tacked on at the end. I still can’t shake the feeling that there’s some key element missing to make it a raging success. I also can’t help but wonder if the inclusion of a black, gay character was a way to knock out two minorities in one fell swoop.
Right now, the key piece absent from the series is pure jokes. It was funny, sure, but I didn’t laugh out loud much at all. The jokes that did land, though, felt really great, such as this exchange between Johnny and Theresa as they sort out the possibility of a future together:
Johnny: “You have eight brothers and sisters. You say, ‘kids,’ and I see myself living with the entire Cubs pitching staff.”
Theresa: “With one major difference: my kids could hold a lead in the ninth.”
Sirens isn’t there yet, but it’s a great start to what could hopefully be another strong addition to the current sitcom landscape.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.