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TV Review: Denis Leary Continues to Shine on Consistent ‘Rescue Me’

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HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGODenis Leary, Peter Tolan, and Evan Reilly were forced to take a lot of time between “Rescue Me” seasons due to the writer’s strike but they’re back with an amazing 22-episode season planned for FX starting tonight, April 7th, 2009 at 9pm CST. Seamlessly picking up where we left off, “Rescue Me” continues to entertain and maintain its tricky balance between goofy comedy and deadly serious subjects.

Not much has changed for Tommy Gavin (Leary). He’s still dealing with the ghosts of 9/11, still trying to keep his job on the 62 Truck, still battling alcoholism, still barely keeping his fragile relationships with his family together, and still dealing with crazy ex-girlfriends.

Rescue Me
Rescue Me
Photo credit: FX

The fifth season of “Rescue Me” opens just after the death of Tommy’s father (Charles Durning) at the end of season four. With most of ex-wife issues resolved, his ex-girlfriend more safely out of the picture, his daddy issues at least repressed, and the fact that he hasn’t had a drink in months, it feels like season five gives viewers a more relaxed and relatable Tommy than some previous seasons of this hit show.

Rescue Me
Rescue Me
Photo credit: FX

As for the regular characters on the show, when season five opens Tommy is dealing with the very real possibility of being kicked off his squad. Meanwhile, Black Shawn (Larenz Tate) is dating Tommy’s daughter, Mike (Michael Lombardi), Sean (Steven Pasquale), and Franco (Daniel Sunjata) end up opening a bar, and Lou (John Scurti) finds his world turned upside down by a French journalist (Karina Lombard) writing a book on 9/11. Of course, Sheila (Callie Thorne) is still flitting around and being generally insane.

At its core, “Rescue Me” is about a group of men drastically affected by what happened on 9/11 - NYC firefighters. In keeping with the idea that these gentlemen woke up on that morning with no idea of what to come, “Rescue Me” has always been one of the most wildly unpredictable shows on television. Moments of devastating tragedy will be followed by goofy, frat-boy humor. You never know what to expect from scene to scene, much less episode to episode.

The history of “Rescue Me” has some of the funniest material on TV over the last several years, followed almost immediately by shocking, heartbreaking twists. Life often doesn’t have foreshadowing. Why should all TV drama? Every day that a firefighter wakes up could be his last and the strength of “Rescue Me” is how expertly the show has taken that unpredictability and made it dramatically rich television.

Rescue Me
Rescue Me
Photo credit: FX

In keeping with that idea, Leary, Tolan, and Reilly have made the very unexpected casting choice of including Michael J. Fox in a quintet of episodes in the new season. Fox plays the new, handicapped boyfriend of Tommy’s ex-wife Janet (Andrea Roth), someone who immediately butts heads with Gavin. A scene in episode five in which Fox pounds beers and speeds through Manhattan must be seen to be believed. Fox is excellent in his limited arc and its great to see this classic TV star still kicking ass.

Ultimately I feel that “Rescue Me” has been consistently “good” but never quite crossed that threshold to “great”. And I don’t mean that as a slight on the show. There are actually very few programs that have been consistently good for five seasons.

I think Leary has become a better actor with each passing season and undeniably gives one of the most interesting performances on TV but it’s too often at the expense of the rest of the cast. This was a particular problem in season four when the talented ensemble too often took a back seat to Tommy. Tony Soprano isn’t nearly as interesting without Carmela, Paulie, Chris, and even Meadow. “Rescue Me” often sacrificed the ensemble that truly great drama needs.

The good news is that this dynamic seems to be changing a bit in season five. Leary is still the centerpiece but the arrival of the journalist brings out interesting arcs for the rest of the squad and Sean finally gets an interesting plotline of his own a few episodes into the season. Perhaps the length of this season will allow “Rescue Me” to become the deeper show that I always thought it could be. We all know Leary rocks this role by now. Let some of the other band members get a solo or two and this series will move to the next level that it’s always threatened to do.

Check out this great preview for season five of “Rescue Me”:

‘Rescue Me,’ which airs on FX, stars Denis Leary, Michael Lombardi, Steven Pasquale, Andrea Roth, John Scurti, Daniel Sunjata, Callie Thorne, Adam Ferrara, Larenz Tate, Robert John Burke, Lenny Clarke, Tatum O’Neal, Michael J. Fox, and Karina Lombard. The show was created by Leary and Peter Tolan. The fifth season premieres on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 at 9PM CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

angelica's picture

sexy firemen!

The fifth season of “Rescue Me” premieres this week, and we’re counting the minutes until Denis Leary and the crew are back. But it wasn’t until recently that we realized we had a thing for TV firemen and didn’t even know it. Check out these great TV firemen who’ve lit up our small screens over the years and see if you do too.
http://www.getback.com/gallery/fireman-heroes/2986830

meg4fancast's picture

Leary Chat on Fancast

I really like this show. Though at times, I find it a little too far fetched. On 6/3, Denis Leary and Peter Tolan will be chatting with fans on Fancast. Please feel free to ask him anything! Chat starts at 3pm EST. http://www.fancast.com/blogs/live-chat/live-chat-with-rescue-me-co-creat…

Webster Phreaky's picture

Denis Leary is a HACK!

Denis Leary couldn’t act his way out of a condom. Attaching the title “actor” anywhere withing a mile of his name denigrates the traditions of this human art. He is true pathetic and I really believe the ONLY THING that keeps this pathetic show alive is the gratuitous near total nudity and frequent laughable sex (now with mostly everyones clothes on (have you noticed???)

Many of the other actors and actresses are very good performers, Andrea Roth and Callie Thorne are great to watch and LOOK at. Charles Durning made up for hideous Leary’s pathetic lack of acting skills. SOME of the guy in the fire squad are acceptable actors, the rest are nearly as bad as Leary.

What kills the show is the weekly asinine story lines and absurd premises. I just wish the show would go away so Leary can just go back to being a pathetic foul mouthed stand up. And Leary …. lose the leather jacket, you’re NOT Fonzy.

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