‘Rescue Me’s Peter Tolan and Denis Leary on Tonal Balance and the ‘Inches’ Origin

ATX Television Festival - Rescue Me Reunion
Jack Plunkett/Picturegroup
Moderator Gary Levin, Denis Leary, Peter Tolan, Evan Reilly, Callie Thorne, Andrea Roth, John Scurti, Adam Ferrara, Larenz Tate, Michael Lombardi, Tatum O'Neal, James McCaffrey at the "Rescue Me" reunion during the 2016 ATX Television Festival at the Paramount Theatre on June 10, 2016, in Austin, Texas.

On paper, Rescue Me—the FX series about New York City firefighters in a post-9/11 world—could have just been a serious drama. But early on the show established how important the balance of comedy and darkness was, as which really click in to place with in Season 1’s “Inches.”

In the episode, not only does the fire department hold a contest to see which male has the biggest penis, but a firefighter was also killed in the line of duty. “If you’re going to measure c—s, somebody dies,” said executive producer Peter Tolan during the show’s reunion at the ATX Festival.

Tolan and fellow co-creator (and series star) Denis Leary were deeply influenced by real-life firefighters during the making of the series, and the measuring competition was inspired by a real event. “Me and a bunch of real firefighters went out, and we were at a table…and one of the guys said, ‘I can’t f—ing believe he ended up using a remote control,'” Leary recalled. “And I was like, ‘What are you guys talking about?’ [He said,] ‘We’re having a f—ing d— measuring contest at the firehouse, and this c—sucker used a remote.’ And I was like, ‘Wait a minute!'”

“It was funny, it was pissing the guys off, but I was like, ‘This is great,'” Leary added with a laugh.