Show 101: Rescue Me

PREMIERES: June 29 at 10 p.m.

AIRS: Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

WHY YOU MIGHT LOVE IT: Denis Leary. His Tommy Gavin is dark, damaged, and flawed, yet also heroic and endlessly funny. He's irresistible like a hotel fire; you know you should look away from the horror and the tragedy, but there's just no way that you can. Rescue Me has some of the best writing on television, especially the scenes of banter and bonding at the firehouse— which, while hilarious, are also endlessly revelatory about the characters. And characters they are, a band of brothers obsessed with women, penises, drinking, and the attendant complexities when those three elements inevitably mix. Politically correct they're not, but the boys are endlessly loyal to each other and 9/11 still hangs heavily over the firehouse. Rescue Me has also featured a steady flow of top guest actors, including the likes of Susan Sarandon, Gina Gershon, Marisa Tomei, and Michael J. Fox.

WHY YOU MIGHT HATE IT: Well, Tommy Gavin, for one thing. He can be angry and violent and his personal life is a series of bad decisions that leaves all sorts of damage in its wake. Like the women he gets involved with, you love him at your own risk and Tommy will invariably do something so disillusioning that you question why you ever believed in him in the first place. And Tommy isn't the only flawed character on Rescue Me. Really, everyone is. Characters act selfishly and care little about who gets hurt in the process. So if you like your shows with a moral center and a wee bit of redemptive light at the end of the tunnel, you may find Rescue Me to be just too pessimistic. The boys-will-be-boys banter may come across as sexist and bigoted if you don't accept the anything-goes nature of the firefighters' interactions. Oh, and be ready for some ghosts, dream sequences, and flashbacks that sometimes feel heavy-handed.

GET CAUGHT UP: When last we saw Tommy, he had just been shot and left to slowly die by his Uncle Teddy. Tommy, for some kind of Tommy Gavin reason, had encouraged members of his family to resume drinking, and Teddy's wife Ellie was killed when she ran a red light after binging. Tommy's romantic life is exponentially complicated. He's involved with his ex-wife Janet (Andrea Roth), his dead (killed on 9/11) firefighter cousin Jimmy's wife Sheila (Callie Thorne), and Kelly (Maura Tierney—an intense woman haunted by tragedy who Tommy met when she ran back into a fire to retrieve a mysterious metal suitcase.

Follow writer Matt Jaffe on Twitter: @MattAtTVDotCom

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