With full episodes off the air for 19 months and so many good cable entries to keep viewers satiated in the interim, there wasn’t a huge appetite for a return of “Rescue Me.” That is until the first entry of season five demonstrates how good the Denis Leary-infused firehouse drama can be when it doesn’t creatively wander. Make room on the DVR, as the FX original comes back like a house afire.
When “Rescue Me” was at its best early on, Leary’s Tommy Gavin struggled with sobriety, trying to keep his family in line and landing a new hookup who’s more interested in quickie sex than a relationship. There’s still some of that, but Gavin has evolved, and the writers are making sure he’s more multidimensional than ever thought possible. It’s a winning move.
But what’s even more fun is the gentle jostling between the fellas. As far as the guys go, supporting actors Steven Pasquale, Mike Lombardi, Daniel Sunjata and especially John Scurti have always been able to offer just the right responses to Leary’s prickly rants. When they gather in the firehouse and discuss which body part would be less tolerable to lose — a testicle or an eyeball — you know the gang is in their comedic groove again.
Episode begins with the funeral of Gavin’s father, who was played by Charles Durning. Tommy’s not about to say what a great guy he was just because he died suddenly, and that’s not going over well with sister Maggie (Tatum O’Neal), Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) or Father Mickey (Robert John Burke).
There’s lots of promising storylines that will be played out over the next 22 episodes, as the show makes up for lost time. Michael J. Fox looks to be romantically entangled with Tommy’s ex-wife, Janet (Andrea Roth), and newbie firefighter Bart (Larenz Tate) is dating Gavin’s daughter, Colleen (Natale Distler). Oh, and probie Mike Silletti (Lombardi) is thinking about opening a bar with the money he received from his mother’s inheritance.
Also, a reporter is coming into the station to discuss the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed scores of fireman and is sure to reignite long-hidden emotions.
Callie Thorne also returns as Tommy’s crazy ex-girlfriend Sheila, who torched her house a few seasons ago as a way to help vent. Her character feels played out by now, but maybe Leary and co-creator Peter Tolan have a plan to keep her sane as the season moves along — or at least rationale by Gavin standards.