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RESCUE ME: SEASON FOUR (FX)
(Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c starting tonight)
The plot in a nutshell: Last season left us with a gaggle of dangling plots: from Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin being left for dead by a rejected Sheila (Callie Thorne) to Tommy's wife (Andrea Roth) being potentially pregnant with his dead brother's child to the Chief (Jack McGee) falling prey to a heart attack to Garrity (Steven Pasquale) marrying Tommy's sister (Tatum O'Neal) to Lou (John Scurti) shacking up with an ex-nun to Franco (Daniel Sunjata) falling in love to the Probie (Michael Lombardi), well, being the Probie. The new season throws us back into the thick of things as Tommy finds himself the focus of an investigation regarding the cause of the fire, which he still can't remember. At home he's once again back to a platonic relationship with his ex as together they plan to raise her kid together just as their eldest (Natalie Distler) is about to leave the nest. Also thrown into the mix is Nona (Jennifer Esposito), an aggressive firefighter who demands Tommy take her out as repayment for rescuing him from the beach house fire. As for the rest of the crew, Garrity and Lou find their respective relationships are potentially more than they can handle; the Probie's mother falls ill and asks him to end her suffering; the Chief is on the road to recovery - physically and emotionally - but the FDNY may not want him back; and Franco continues to grow closer to Natalie (Sherri Saum) just as her brother (Cornell Womack) begins to start dating. In terms of new plots, Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) finds himself released from jail but his new wife's affections aren't fading like he'd like; the temporary Chief (a very funny Peter Tolan) proves to a square peg in the squad's round hole; and a new recruit's (Larenz Tate) basketball skills start a bidding war between several station houses. All in all, it's crazy business as usual for the 62nd.
What works: The producers have thankfully swung the pendulum back towards "let's watch the guys be idiots" area, away from last season's (at times) suffocating darkness. To me the show is never better than when it's just the guys bullshitting in the squad room. This year sees such discussions as who's in who's "spank bank," female bodybuilders and - as usual - the Probie's metrosexual habits. Peter Tolan also serves as a great comic foil to the house's camaraderie - just count how many times he gets each guy's name wrong. Outside the house, the Chief's comeback proves to be surprisingly touching as he continues to grow closer to his gay son, who's just announced he's getting married. The same goes for Franco's bonding with Richard as you genuinely get the sense (to Franco's own surprise) he wants to be a part of his and Natalie's life, potentially forever. And you still can't top Garrity's general idiocy - just wait to see Tommy's reaction to who's in his "spank bank." But in terms of the show's signature huge, raw moments, the end of episode three this season will undoubtedly rank among the show's top stunning climaxes.
What doesn't: The emasculation of Tommy continues to get sillier and sillier, almost to the point where you start forgetting why exactly everyone looks up to him. Case in point: his fear of Nona, which feels like something they already tried a few seasons ago. The same goes for Sheila, who once again has taken on a new persona this season. While the show has seen several women in Tommy's life come and go, it's almost mind boggling why the producers continue to go back to the Sheila wheelhouse. Nevertheless both these are more sticking points than reasons to stay away from the show. After all, in the programming desert that is summer television, "Rescue Me" continues to be that fresh drink of water that gets me through the doldrums.
The bottom line: What else can I say? This TV junkie finally has a regular fix this summer.