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43° Good Morning

'Rescue Me' returns minus some of its fire

From the left, Larenz Tate and Steven Pasquale

From the left, Larenz Tate and Steven Pasquale star in RESCUE ME airing Tuesday, July 13, 2011 on FX. Credit: Jeff Neira / FX/

Ladder Company 62 -- "62 Truck" -- has been saved from closing by a slick maneuver of chief "Needles" Nelson (Adam Ferrara) while a devastating accident leaves Sheila's (Callie Thorne) son, Damien (Michael Zegen), in a near-vegetative state. Meanwhile, Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) gets some monumental news: ex-wife Janet (Andrea Roth) appears to be pregnant by him.

WHAT TONIGHT'S ABOUT We can drop that "appears" -- Janet very much is pregnant and drops an ultimatum before Tommy. His daughter, Colleen (Natalie Distler), and Sean (Steven Pasquale) are thinking about their future, while the boys of 62 Truck are wondering why there hasn't been an honest-to-God fire in weeks.

MY SAY As "Rescue Me" turns the ripe (and terminal) age of 7, you may (as I did) come to the conclusion that this series is long past the days when it could shock, amuse, agitate, excite or just plain dumbfound -- often in a single scene. Tommy's brutal narcissism has worn thin (he was more interesting when he drank). Leary's actorly tics -- the halting, jumpy voice, like he's midpoint in some standup anecdote -- feel mannerly and a bit annoying. You may also wonder (as I did) how much more anger, fury, insanity, stupidity -- all in the name of repressed guilt for long-fallen comrades, and one cousin in particular -- can any one character exhibit before you simply have had enough?

Tonight's episode is a particularly weak start, but the show gets into a groove when Maura Tierney's Kelly McPhee makes her reappearance by the second and third episodes. Tierney was forced from "Parenthood" in 2009 after undergoing cancer treatment, but she completed this arc, as a woman who lost her daughter and has (presumably) fatal cancer. Her role is so strong that you may (as I did) start to get the impression that the even more compelling story in this final leg is hers, not Tommy's.

BOTTOM LINE Middling start, but we've stuck with "Rescue Me" this long, and no point in bailing now.



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