For those disappointed in season 4 (as series cocreator Peter Tolan candidly admits in a season retrospective included as a bonus feature), season 5 should rekindle your passion for Rescue Me
. The backbone of these first 11 episodes is the introduction of a French journalist (Karina Lombard), who is writing a book in anticipation of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Her interviews with the firefighters as well as family members of those who perished in the attack (Callie Thorne's Sheila is a particular standout) have the same force as those in the classic M*A*S*H
episode "The Interview." Tommy Gavin's year-long sobriety is put to the ultimate test when he is rocked by news footage that seems to show that his cousin Jimmy did not die in the first tower, as everyone believed. It forces Tommy (an Emmy-worthy Dennis Leary) to confront what happened that day and how he did--and did not--respond. "Are you haunted, Tommy?" the journalist asks. That's an understatement; he falls off the wagon and his ghosts return. Tommy is further put through the wringer by his wildly dysfunctional family, including his estranged wife Janet (Andrea Roth), who is now seeing a belligerent, wheelchair-bound alcoholic and pill popper (Michael J. Fox in his Emmy-winning performance); his oldest daughter Colleen (Natalie Distler), who is secretly seeing Black Shawn (Larenz Tate) and unnerves him with her precocious sexual prowess; and his younger daughter Katy (Olivia Crociccia), now attending an elite private school, where she has created a new identity for herself (and her parents). Among the other developments that will resonate throughout the season are the firefighters purchasing a bar; Franco (Daniel Sunjata) embarking on a boxing career; the return of Candy, who bilked and deserted Lou (John Scurti) back in season 2; and Sean's (Steven Pasquale) back pain, which is initially treated as comic relief, but takes a more devastating turn. Rescue Me
can turn on a dime between "deep thought and personal wisdom" and crude, base humor. Its fatalistic sensibility and close-knit camaraderie is akin to Howard Hawks's Only Angels Have Wings
. As for Tommy, who is described as "a great fireman, selfish, spiteful, hit-the-nail-on-the-head kind of guy," he tries desperately to keep it all together. After he beats his Section Eight, Deputy Chief Feinberg (Jerry Adler) warns him about stepping out of line in the future. "Since it's you, it could happen at any time," he states. Tommy seems to have the luck of the Irish. How his luck holds out is a matter for the conclusion of season 5. --Donald Liebenson
The men of 62 Truck are back for a fifth season in Denis Leary and Peter Tolan’s series. Tommy Gavin is grappling with the death of his father as the season opens, along with the new man in Janet’s life (guest star Michael J. Fox). The crew devises a business plan to open a bar, which turns into a lucrative venture, but also a temptation to Tommy, who continues to struggle with sobriety. Sean faces a heath issue with no easy solution, while Needles struggles to garner respect and maintain control of the firehouse. Meanwhile, Sheila attempts to purge herself of Tommy and allows Damian to pursue a future as a firefighter. Conspiracy theories about 9/11 ruffle more than a few feathers, brought on by the arrival of an intriguing foreigner. Under the shadow of a haunting past, the crew continues to look to the future and realize that salvation often lies where you least expect it.