SirensPosted: June 6, 2012
Sirens, which premiered on BBC Channel 4 on June 27, 2011, is a TV show about three paramedics (British comedians Rhys Thomas and Kayvan Novak, and Richard “King of the North” Madden) and other emergency services personnel in the UK. It’s apparently based on a book called Blood, Sweat & Tea and is even apparently set for an American remake. All in all, it’s a really good show.
It isn’t hard to like it; it’s a show that’s pretty much just dark, dark comedy. Working in a hospital I grew to appreciate it because unless you spend an evening in the ER (preferably a Friday, Saturday, or anytime around Welfare Wednesday), you have no idea how many people are brought in either by ambulance or by foot with alcohol poisoning or some kind of drug overdose (or combination of the both). Most of these days are spent dealing with these drunks, who range from friendly to incredibly violent, and are all either soaked in booze, urine, or vomit (and sometimes all three). It is a dark job and behind the scenes, all hospital staff engage in the kind of dark twisted humour that this show is chock full of (because there is no other way to deal with it, really). And that of course includes paramedics who spend more time taxiing drunk people to the hospital as they do administering medical care to people with serious conditions. It sucks, but that’s the reality.
And that’s the reality that Sirens captures so very, very well. Paramedics, cops, firefighters — they’re all people behind the uniform and it’s hard to remember that. We needed to call the police once for a very dangerous individual that we managed to contain. Vancouver’s Emergency Response Team showed up and en route the two officers were discussing the “coolest” way to enter the room with weapons drawn. They were ultimately very professional, but that’s when I realised that, well, they’re people.
Rhys Thomas plays the lead, Stewart, a cocky know-it-all with a Wikipedia level of knowledge about everything and a scientific explanation to match, especially when talking about feelings. Kayvan Novak plays the newbie, a recent trainee named Rachid with a presumably shady past. He’s the most immature of the bunch, and probably the least jaded. Richard Madden plays Ashley, a gay paramedic who spends most of his time downplaying his gayness and trying to come across as more than a one-note character (and, of course, he is). Paramedics obviously deal with fire fighters and police, the latter group being represented by Amy Beth Hayes as a presumable love-interest and career cop Maxine Fox.
All in all, the show does a great job of capturing a dark topic. Each of the characters is at least a little jaded and they all have their personal lives, but when an emergency does occur, they can usually put it aside (as an example, at one point Fox and her partner are bickering as they’re leaving a car and she transitions immediately into cop mode to take down a bad guy — it’s great). It’s hard to go into more detail because each episode is more or less a day or a night in the life of a paramedic; there is somewhat of an arc (Fox rising in the ranks, Rachid gaining more experience, and both Stewart and Ashley trying to get stable love lives), but for a most part the series is pretty stable. The actors all have pretty good comedic timing, and the show manages to convey semi-ridiculous situations with such sincerity that you’re never really left asking how or why. The first and only series (that’s British for “season”) is only six episodes, and the show was unceremoniously canned by Channel 4, allegedly because it didn’t fit in with their eclectic mix of shows. In defense of Sirens, it had a pretty good following and got pretty consistent ratings, so it’s hard to blame the show itself for its failure. You can currently pick it up on DVD from a bunch of websites (mostly UK ones), which I would recommend, and you can also grab Blood, Sweat & Tea as a free eBook from a variety of sources online, legally of course.