In the first couple of seasons, Denis Leary's FDNY fire opera Rescue Me flung itself through windows and played out in traffic. It busted jaws, opened old wounds just for spite and made grand sport of the whole ungodly train wreck of it all. It was almost as though co-creators Leary and Peter Tolan (The Larry Sanders Show) felt they were going to get canceled any second and so chucked all caution to the wind. In between sitting around the firehouse and indulging in some of the more profane dialogue ever to grace the TV screen (even on basic cable), the characters were subjected to just about any disaster Leary and Tolan could come up with, anything to push these emotionally stunted mugs to the wall and see what devastation they would mete out in response.

But somehow, the pissy little export from the land of the five boroughs -- and rarely has a show so viscerally captured the city's day-to-day, boiling-over, rat-in-a-cage anger -- survived. And this is after sending the wife of the Chief (Jack McGee) into a debilitating Alzheimer's nightmare and not only devastating Tommy Gavin's (Leary) family with the long-term and low-intensity emotional warfare of a never-ending divorce but then, near the end of the second season, having a drunk driver kill Tommy's little boy. That tragedy was then capped off by a nothing-to-lose Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) gunning down the driver in full view of the cops, since a life behind bars seemed preferable to anything else he had going.

Continue reading: Rescue Me: Season Three Review