TV 'Rescued' For The Summer

Any time you have to wait for a show as good as "Rescue Me" to return, the wait seems too long.

Well, tonight, that wait is over. "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) returns for a brand-new season, picking up right where we left off -- with Tommy (Denis Leary) having been shot by his uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) over the death of Teddy's wife.

Picking up tonight, Tommy gets a view of the afterlife -- both Heaven and Hell. Is it a dream, or is it a preview of things to come?

"Rescue Me" is great on so many levels. As a drama, it often punches you in the gut, especially when it refers to 9/11. As a comedy, there are few shows funnier, with a terrific cast of characters, all of whom have perfect comic timing.

I've seen the first four of "Rescue Me" this season, and it does open a little slowly early on. Tommy's ex Janet (the terrific Andrea Roth) has been getting help from Franco around the house. Perhaps a little too much "help." Tommy's daughter Colleen proves she's a Gavin by developing a drinking problem. (Actually, she has no problem drinking, she consumes alcohol by the volumes). So much so that Black Shawn can barely keep her contained.

White Sean deals with a friend who has cancer, while Sheila is trying to get Tommy to get his cousin's son Damian to leave the fire department. Meanwhile, the station as a whole is facing the possibility that it will be shut down due to budget cuts.

As always, "Rescue Me" has some great guest stars, and Peter Gallagher turns up in Ep. 3 as a recurring character, a rather off-the-wall priest.

While the season starts off slowly, by Ep. 4, things return to normal, including one of the funnier moments in the show's run as to which firefighter gets to pretend to be a doctor.

Few networks can match FX in terms of quality, and "Rescue Me" is the cream of the crop.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: That's not the only new show on FX tonight. The network also launches "Louie," (FX, 11 p.m.) in which comedian Louis CK stars in a sitcom based on a warped version of his life, a' la "Seinfeld" or "Curb Your Enthusiasm." This version is raunchier than those programs, but is also very funny.

On the networks, ABC has the game shows "Wipeout" and "Downfall" from 8-10 p.m., while Fox airs two hours of "Kitchen Nightmares."

On cable, TNT is all-new with "HawthoRNe" at 9 p.m., followed by "Memphis Beat" at 10 p.m. 

"Law & Order: CI" (USA, 10 p.m.) is new, as is "Ashes To Ashes" (BBC America, 10 p.m.)