Sirens: Thursdays at 10 Eastern on USA
2013 was an odd year for USA. While the network had spent years building it’s brand of “characters welcome”, it had instead spent the year launching a handful of mediocre reality series (The Moment, Summer Camp) to flank it’s more established shows. Going into 2014, USA seems to be aiming for a more balanced mix of new scripted and new reality, and is trusting some proven hands in order to find the right hits to replace some of its’ aging lineup.
Sirens, from the minds of Denis Leary and Bob Fisher, is the story of three EMT’s in the Chicago area as they go on calls trying to save the lives of the people who call on them. Two of the EMT’s, Hank (Kevin Daniels) and Johnny (Michael Mosely), are long time friends, but they are also tasked with helping to show neophyte Brian (Kevin Bigley) the ropes. Further complicating matters is their constant interactions with Johnny’s ex-girlfriend Theresa (Jessica MacNamee), a hard nosed cop still holding some feelings for Johnny.
Sirens aims to be the medical equivalent of the buddy cop show, and succeeds at it perfectly. Johnny and Hank have a dynamic that’s reminiscent of Riggs and Murtaugh, with the loose cannon Johnny being tempered by the more reserved Hank. Where Sirens deviates is in the addition of Brian, who operates as a naive counterpoint to their cynicism and as the sort of hate sink that happens to keep Johnny and Hank from eating each other alive with their comedic barbs. In a lot of ways this puts Sirens in direct contrast with numerous other medical shows (including and most starkly, Scrubs), as the gravity that comes with death is a non-factor.
When it comes to it’s comedy side, Sirens is remarkably funny. Jokes are delivered with the same urgency one would expect from the more serious side of the medical profession, with the digs often coming at a machine gun clip. While the bulk of the humor tends to be thrown in the direction of new recruit Brian, the best gags are thrown at the worst patients that the crew are forced to endure, whether it’s a businessman who has a coke bottle trapped in an uncomfortable place and an indignant jerk whose spewing venom at Hank after being struck by lightning.
If there is one thing that feels extraneous, it’s a tepid romantic angle between Johnny and Theresa that’s tacked on. It feels forced because all of the plotting comes from the ridiculous maneuvers that the show takes to force the two exes into the contact. As a show that focuses entirely on it’s A plot (in the first two episodes, we see nothing that resembles a B plot), this drags the show to a screeching halt at points, clashing with the incredibly tight rapid-fire rhythms that make Sirens shine.
The Final Verdict: Sirens clicks in all of the right places, being wickedly funny while focusing on the mundane aspects of medical work. It also gets the most out of being fearlessly bawdy, while maintaining the sort of “in your face” persona that people have come to associate with Denis Leary’s brand of comedy. Check it out if you’re looking for something fun in the 10 o’clock hour (though it also faces stiff competition from Andrew Daly’s Review).