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RESCUE ME: SEASON FIVE (FX)
(Tuesdays at 10:00/9:00c starting tonight)
The network's description: "Rescue Me stars Denis Leary, Adam Ferrara, Michael Lombardi, Steven Pasquale, Andrea Roth, John Scurti, Daniel Sunjata and Callie Thorne. The series was created by Leary and Peter Tolan, who along with Jim Serpico serve as executive producers. The show is produced by Apostle, The Cloudland Company and DreamWorks Television in association with Sony Pictures Television. The 22-episode fifth season will air on FX over 23 weeks, with the season finale scheduled to air Tuesday, September 8th. "Rescue Me is one of the very best series on television and a tentpole program for FX," said Landgraf. "We're amazed by the quality of episodes for the upcoming fifth season, which are some of the best they've ever produced. I believe this show will continue to maintain a level of excellence for several years to come and we're thrilled to pick it up for a sixth season." "Peter, Denis and Jim continue to produce inspired work and the sixth season renewal is a validation of their efforts," said Zack Van Amburg, President, Programming, Sony Pictures Television. "We've been able to attract great talent for key guest arcs, such as Michael J. Fox and Maura Tierney. The show is as strong creatively now as it's ever been," added Jamie Erlicht, President, Programming, Sony Pictures Television. Rescue Me revolves around the lives of the men in a New York City firehouse, the crew of 62 Truck. Examining the fraternal nature and relationships of firefighters, the series tackles the daily drama of the life-and-death situations associated with being a firefighter, while exploring the ways the men use dark humor to protect their true emotions."
What did they leave out? While it's been off the air for 20 months (season four wrapped, gulp, in September 2007), very little time has passed on the show itself.
The plot in a nutshell: The new season once again sees the crew of 62 Truck trying to balance their dangerous careers with their own personal insanities. For Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary), it's waiting to hear about his Section 8 hearing, which could put him out of a job; for Needles (Adam Ferrara), it's realizing he's under a microscope after making chief at such a young age; for Lou (John Scurti), it's a renewed interest in his writing after a French journalist (Karina Lombard) asks to interview the gang for a book about the anniversary of 9/11; for Mike (Michael Lombardi), it's trying to figure out what to do with his inheritance from his late mother; for Sean (Steven Pasquale), it's a surprising health crisis; for Franco (Daniel Sunjata), it's the blowback from airing his unpopular opinions about what really happend on 9/11; for Black Sean (Larenz Tate), it's working up the courage to tell Tommy about his relationship with daughter Colleen (Natalie Distler); for Tommy's ex Janet (Andrea Roth), it's shacking up with a paraplegic extreme sports nut (a pitch perfect Michael J. Fox) who may just be crazier than Tommy; and for Sheila (Callie Thorne), it's channeling her anger with Tommy into a unique form of therapy. All in all, they're issues that range from the silly to the soul crushingly dramatic, sometimes in surprising ways.
What works: The overarching theme of the new season appears to be that everybody is finally ready to call Tommy out on his shit - whether it be Teddy (Lenny Clarke) losing it over Tommy's lack of respect over his brother's (Charles Durning) death; Mickey (Robert John Burke) testing Tommy's commitment to sobriety by saddling him with someone to sponsor; Jimmy (James McCaffrey) and the rest of Tommy's ghosts turning their back on him; Lou calling into question the nature of their friendship after Tommy moves in; or the crew in general not really seeming to care if Tommy passes or fails his Section 8 hearing. They're tired of his self destructive ways, plain and simple. It's a refreshing change of pace as Tommy's heroics no longer seem to excuse the emotional and psychological pain he causes those around him. He's finally gotten the message that he's going to have to get it together. Not helping matters: revisiting 9/11 has opened up old wounds around the station as well as caused some new ones, as Tommy discovers that Jimmy may not have died the way he originally thought. Also getting a long overdue wake up call: Sheila, who despite discovering a new way to wallow on her own self pity, eventually gets the message that she needs to move on from her Tommy fixation. My personal favorite this year however proves to be Sean as his usual dim-witted demeanor is forced to confront something serious, leading to several touching (and hilarious) moments. As always though "Rescue Me" is never better than when it's just the guys BSing in the kitchen (among this year's topics: the "dick fart" and "pussy feng shui") or sucker punching your gut (episode five for instance opens with a jaw dropping sequence involving another terrorist attack in New York that you have to see to believe).
What doesn't: I must admit this season got off to a slow start for me - all of the above doesn't really get any traction until episodes five and six. It's not so much that it's a slow build, it's more like it takes a few weeks for the show to figure out what it's going to be this season. It doesn't help that more than a few old plots are rehashed, whether it be Tommy and Janet's mutually abusive relationship, Sheila's shrill obsession with Tommy or yet another 62 Truck member terrified Tommy will kill them for sleeping with one of his kin. To it's credit though it seems like they're being brought up again to try and pushing Tommy and company in a healthier direction but without knowing what's ahead they come across as warmed over leftovers. In any case, I'm glad I stuck with the show - having the first nine (!) episodes of season five plopped on your desk helps - as I can assure you...
The bottom line: ...great things are ahead.