Screen Savors: Smoke without fire

Season four of the fiery 'Rescue Me' has begun to air locally - finally! Caution: spoilers ahead.

dennis leary rescue me (photo credit: )
dennis leary rescue me
(photo credit: )
We usually praise Rescue Me, the outstanding FX series starring Denis Leary as Tommy Gavin, an alcoholic, oversexed firefighter who sees dead people. The fourth season recently debuted on HOT's Channel 3. While we welcome the decision to bring the program back, the delay in doing so - the DVD's been out for months - only underscores our disappointment with this season, as were viewers and critics in the States. The first three seasons were slam-bang. They dealt with Gavin's difficulties stemming from his dysfunctional family and the horrific loss of his son, to the fire scenes, to his meeting Jesus Christ and Mary. Season Four, on the other hand, goes nowhere. When we last left our hero, Gavin was caught in a fire at the luxury home he had bought together with his crazy sister-in-law, Sheila. While none of us bought Gavin's fiery death, we were so desperate for this season that we rented it in advance of its airing. We had no way to expect the series would bog down as it has. For one, Jerry, Gavin's firehouse chief, was eliminated in a way we won't reveal here. Actor Jack McGee said in an interview that the wrong character was eliminated and that Leary, "didn't have the guts to tell me himself I was being let go." We liked his character and thought he got a bum deal, too. Instead, we get way too much of Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke, a good friend of Leary's). Just released from jail, this character adds little to the show aside for gross annoyances. Janet, Gavin's wife, has a baby who everyone is convinced is Johnnie's, Gavin's brother. Her affair with him led to one of the show's best scenes of Gavin beating the living daylights out of Johnnie. But nobody really likes the kid anyway and crazy Sheila kidnaps the poor tyke to be rescued by Janet and her daughter. And, Sheila's son Damian disappears from the plot completely. Other characters aren't developed much further either. With the homophobic firehouse banter off the charts, Probie Mike, who's given a difficult request by his dying mother, has had a gay relationship in the series' past. Now the focus of an ongoing bit involving the dopey Sean, he discovers that Mike was raised by a lesbian couple. Hoo ha! As if that explains everything about the sensitive kid. And Franco's relationship with his girlfriend and her weird brother goes in circles, never really getting anywhere - even after popping the question. At least Susan Sarandon makes another guest appearance as Felicia, Franco's old lover. But it's not enough to make up for not much happening. While Gavin still sees ghosts, his ongoing relationship with the firewoman who dragged him out of the fire also drags through several episodes. And she still gives up on him. Several episodes are wasted on the attempt to attract Black Sean, a new cast member, to the fire company's basketball team. There are still some fine moments and, in comparison to most other shows, Rescue Me still rocks. - like when the squad is called to a fire. One poignant episode focuses on the tremendous loss felt by Gavin and the rest of the men when they lose seven young children in a furious inferno. Indeed, when the crew puts its lives on the line the series hits its stride. Still, watching the series on DVD - a challenge when attempting to watch over a dozen episodes in three days - is unsatisfying. Even Lou, our favorite character, is stuck trying to get rid of the oversexed nun he's with - a subplot that drags on for several episodes. And enough already of Sean's relationship with Maggie (Tatum O'Neal), a ridiculous character we never cared for in the first place. Since Rescue Me still packs a wallop, we're going to stick it out for season five, which is getting rave reviews - and, among other surprises, the addition of the great Michael J. Fox. We can only hope that HOT is quicker to supply the new season. Rescue Me airs on Friday at 11 p.m. and Saturday at 10 p.m. on HOT's Channel 3.