By: Aleks Chan
After 18 months of strike-ridden delay, RESCUE ME, FX’s smart and funny series following a ragtag team of New York firefighters, is finally back after a doozy of a fourth season – one that I feared may have spelled the end for Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary, who just might have the most multi-facetious sneer on television) and the men of 62 Truck. But as they say: time can heal even the deepest wounds.
Focus has been diverted away from the eternally melodramatic Gavin family and back to the firehouse, where a French journalist (Karina Lombard of THE 4400) is interviewing the team for her book about the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, thereby bringing RESCUE ME’s emotional core back to the foreground, hearkening back to where the show started creatively: ripping open old wounds of tragedy while juxtaposing those moments with those of inspired humor. RESCUE ME is once again the show that can make you laugh, cry, and twist your stomach into knots all at the same time.
And what a relief it is to see the cast again – Lou! Mike! Crazy Sheila! — as if they were old friends, having never left: Tommy is continuing to dance along the line of sobriety and alcoholism as he deals with another one of his ex-wife Janet’s (the stunning Andrea Roth) boyfriends, this one a loudmouth who’s particularly good in the sack, played by Michael J. Fox with a winning sense of glee.
The supporting cast – one of the best on television – has extended their debauchery to a bar Mike (Michael Lombardi) invests in with his mother’s inheritance money along with Sean (Steven Pasquale) and Franco (Daniel Sunjata). They open it to attract women, but go about it the wrong way: mainly, they attempt to stylize the place by painting everything – everything – black.
But what threads this team together is the shared experience of running into the the Twin Towers confused, scared, and determined to save everyone they could. They all have their own quiet, personal moments: Callie Thorne’s Sheila has always been an off-the-wall loony, but this season she has one of the most poignant moments of the show; Franco is the black sheep, speaking out against the attacks as an inside job; one character develops cancer from helping clean up Ground Zero.
What has always been a potential problem for RESCUE ME has been that it can edge towards the threshold of exploiting tragedy for entertainment – but Leary along with fellow exec producer Peter Tolan have always proven themselves to have a handle on when to explore and when to venerate: seven of the first nine episodes are written by them, with both delicacy and a sharp-tongue.
In a cable oddity, RESCUE ME was picked up for 22 episodes this season (to air uninterrupted starting tonight) in addition to 18 more next season, to air in 2010. Catch it while it’s hot.
RESCUE ME returns tonight at 10 p.m. est on FX
Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / FX