It’s a credit to Denis Leary that the first episode of “Sirens” dives directly into a discussion about Internet porn and embarrassing browser histories without the dialogue sounding as if it was excavated from a dusty 10-year-old episode of “Sex and the City.” The show, developed by Leary and Bob Fisher, falls back on the “Rescue Me” subject of public servants — this time it’s EMTs — but focuses more on comedy and less on public service. Much of that comedy is wonderfully raunchy.
“Sirens” is adapted from a not-so-successful British series (which featured a pre-“Game of Thrones” Richard Madden), but Leary’s fingerprints are all over the American incarnation, down to the allegrissimo dialogue that buzzes with penis jokes and breast talk. This chatter may be a turn-off to some viewers, but “Sirens” never feels crude for the sake of being shocking. Even in the porn-heavy maiden episode, the subject is broached as casually as conversations about cats or candy bars.
There is no mistaking that this is a bromedy. But this is a smart bromedy. Ladies, don’t be afraid to watch. Out of the gate, Leary creates characters that are identifiable and likable.
Set in Chicago, the show follows the trio of Johnny (Michael Mosley), Hank (Kevin Daniels), and Brian (Kevin Bigley). Episodes open with a patient in the back of the ambulance, and that’s about as much medical drama as we see. It’s those patients that set the plot in motion each week, whether it’s the aforementioned Internet porn issue, or the concept of forgiveness. The emergencies function as a subtle catalyst.
There is nothing particularly heavy-handed about the plot, another reason why “Sirens” feels solid and established from the onset. The show zips around with smart dialogue, eschewing forced jokes for peppery lines. It all feels quite modern. The fact that sex is discussed cheekily and conversationally, not for the purpose of making viewers blush, seems new, at least in this universe.
There is no contrived setup to introduce characters. Without the fanfare of “We now join this program already in progress,” we are casually dropped into their universe, their conversations, and shown their peccadillos. New characters drop in with no indication if they are regulars or guests. It’s a bit like real life in that way.
Johnny is taking a timeout with his girlfriend (Jessica McNamee) whom he clearly still loves. Hank falls into the new sitcom character of “unexpected gay” (think Adam Pally on “Happy Endings” or Andre Braugher on “Brooklyn 911”). As dim-witted Brian, Bigley hijacks scenes with the pitch-perfect naivete of Betty White in “The Golden Girls.”
“It’s depressing like a Gus Van Sant movie when it could be like a Rob Lowe Hallmark special,” he says while he sweetly plots to meddle in a co-worker’s life.
It’s an astounding accomplishment that this cast has chemistry from the onset. While the scenarios are not always believable, the relationships are. Johnny’s girlfriend, a Chicago police officer played with just the right amount of edge from McNamee, is a worthy romantic adversary. We have no idea (at least in the first three episodes) why the couple has put its relationship on hiatus, but clearly it’s on her terms. Yes, they will predictably be an on-again off-again TV couple, but the fun will be in watching the romantic arm wrestling match that will no doubt ebb and flow.
“Rescue Me” alum Lenny Clarke and Jean Smart play Johnny’s bitterly divorced parents, and future episodes will feature Loretta Devine, Bill Nunn, and John Scurti. But “Sirens” is not the kind of show that needs to rely on familiar faces. This is a substantial show already helmed by a likable group of actors.