Reason to watch: Launch of sixth (next-to-last) season.

When/Where: Tuesday at 10 on FX

Denis Leary has seen the afterlife in 'Rescue Me'

Denis Leary as Tommy gavin in the RESCUE

Denis Leary as Tommy gavin in the RESCUE ME season premiere airing Tuesday, June 29 at 10 p.m. on FX. (Credit: FX Photo)

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THE SHOW "Rescue Me"

WHEN | WHERE Tonight at 10 on FX

REASON TO WATCH Launch of sixth (next-to-last) season.

CATCHING UP In the cliffhanger at the end of Season 5, Tommy (Denis Leary) and his other recidivist drinking buddies are back in Mike (Mike Lombardi) and Sean's (Steve Pasquale) bar to drain whatever is put in front of them. Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) is distraught over the death of his beloved Ellie (Patti D'Arbanville), who was killed after driving drunk following another Tommy-

orchestrated drinking binge. So he shoots Tommy in the shoulder, leaving him on the bar floor to . . . die?

WHAT THE LAUNCH IS ABOUT Tommy lives. But first, he dies - a fast, painless slip into unconsciousness, then a side trip to heaven, or hell. Which is which is unclear, even to Tommy, who gets another one of those visitations from his firefighter cousin Jimmy Keefe (James McCaffrey), who died at Ground Zero. Tommy will revive, but the visions trouble him, as well they should. (Could a particularly chilling one be even a portent?)

Meanwhile, Ladder 62/

Engine 99 has troubles, and they were not helped by the barroom shooting. As Chief Feinberg (Jerry Adler) bluntly explains, "New York is in a -- recession" and the FDNY is looking to cut budgets.

MY SAY This episode pulls out of the Uncle Teddy shooting story line so fast that viewers will get whiplash. Put on a neck brace before you watch. That's troubling because it leaves the impression that last season's closer was a standard-issue TV gimmick rather than a dramatic game-changer that will set this series on track for the conclusion it deserves. Instead, this episode seems a bit like square one.

BOTTOM LINE "Rescue Me" is a show about a very big subject - the legacy of 9/11 - and whether one of its victims, Tommy Gavin, can ever brush off his mantle of "anger, cynicism and ash" (to paraphrase a memorable phrase by his ex-wife Janet Gavin, played by Andrea Roth.) Can "Rescue Me" wrap all this up in the short time left? I hope so, but this episode feels like so much temporizing.

GRADE B

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