Rescue Me Some shows, when they hit a fifth season — as Rescue Me is now doing — grope for story lines, search for ways to spruce… Rescue Me Some shows, when they hit a fifth season — as Rescue Me is now doing — grope for story lines, search for ways to spruce… 2009-04-07 Comedy Drama Denis Leary F/X
TV Review

Rescue Me (2009)

Ashes to Ashes Denis Leary and John Scurti are in the thick of it in season 5 of Rescue Me
Image credit: FX
Ashes to Ashes Denis Leary and John Scurti are in the thick of it in season 5 of Rescue Me
EW's GRADE
A

Details Start Date: Apr 07, 2009; Genres: Comedy, Drama; With: Denis Leary; Network: F/X

Some shows, when they hit a fifth season — as Rescue Me is now doing — grope for story lines, search for ways to spruce 
up familiar characters, and work in ratings-goosing guest stars. Their straining effort is obvious, and you can smell the desperation. But with Rescue Me, you smell the 
smoke: This series is officially on fire now.

Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin and his Manhattan firefighters are up to their usual tricks. Tommy continues to struggle with sobriety and ''sees'' his dead cousin 
Jimmy (James McCaffrey). Pudgy horndog Lou (the wise John Scurti) falls for a comely French journalist (The L Word's Karina Lombard). Tommy's estranged wife, Janet (the shimmering Andrea Roth), falls for a lout who's great in bed (Michael J. Fox in an Emmy-deserving guest arc). And Tommy's dum-dum 
teammates buy a bar and attempt to make it a hip hangout...by painting everything 
in it, including the glasses, black.

I've only skimmed the surface, suggesting without spoiling what happens in Rescue Me's new episodes. Last season, the show hit a rough patch. Its balance of laughs 'n' drama was itchy and off-kilter, with too much time spent picking at the Gavin family's emotional scabs. Now Rescue Me has taken on an invigorated intensity. The emotional center of the series has always been the events of Sept. 11, a tragedy that is the literal 
ground-zero source of nearly all the pain 
the central characters continue to experience. 
And co-creators Leary and exec producer/writer Peter Tolan know they risk exploiting that event for melodrama or laughs.

But the new season demonstrates that good entertainment can address anything. Here, in episodes about what Tommy sees 
in BBC footage of the Twin Towers' collapse, and the diseases suffered by firefighters involved in that calamity, the series earns both its drama and its bleak, soul-cleansing humor.

Of course, this being Rescue Me, none of this is solemn — it's raucous and funny even when it's tearing at your heart. You've got to watch to see firefighter Franco's 9/11 
conspiracy rants (Daniel Sunjata is so good at righteous vehemence). You've got 
to see Stephanie March, formerly a stiff 
on Law & Order: SVU, come to life as a 
 psychic who's advising both Tommy and lovably goofy Mike (clever Mike Lombardi).

And you cannot miss Michael J. Fox's performance as a wheelchair-whirling, scruffy, profane rival for Janet's affections. By the time he takes Tommy for a hair-raising car ride in week 5's episode, you feel as though you're in the backseat, hanging on for dear life, happily. A

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Originally posted Apr 01, 2009 Published in issue #1042 Apr 10, 2009 Order article reprints
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