Rescue Me: Has This Season Saved the Show? - Featured

There's something different about Rescue Me this season that we can't quite put a finger on.

Maybe it's the complete creative rejuvenation of the show after a long, 18-month hiatus. Maybe it's the addition of the shockingly grotesque, wheelchair-bound Dwight, played brilliantly against type by guest star Michael J. Fox. Maybe it's that the show returned its focus to 9/11 and its lasting effects on the firefighters. Or maybe it's just because Season 4's look at a sober Tommy Gavin was a bit of a stinker.

If you ask Rescue Me's creators, they'll agree with most of all of that.

"We work in a vacuum," star and co-creator Denis Leary tells "It's impossible to tell what the audience or critics will think. Last season, we investigated places that we had to go, specifically with Tommy being sober. But it's not until it's out there that you get the reaction where people go, 'Y'know, it's really dark.'"

But dark isn't the word co-creator, writer and director Peter Tolan would use to describe Season 4. His word? Letdown. "The fourth season had its pleasures, but it was certainly not up to snuff, in my opinion, with what we had done in the previous years," he says. "We just sort of lost focus, the stories weren't as solid, and the storytelling, I thought, was a little weak. And many people noticed it. Because of that, I said to the guys that when we come back, we have to come back firing on all cylinders we have to come back at 150 miles per hour and not stop."

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