I kid you not, I think it could end up being the best show this decade.
Rescue Me follows Tommy Gavin (played by Denis Leary, who also co-writes), a New York City firefighter who bellows at a bunch of fresh-faced recruits that "I ain't no hero" and means it. He's fallen off the wagon since 9/11, is spying on his soon-to-be-ex-wife during her dates and is haunted -- literally -- by those he couldn't save, most notably his cousin Jimmy, who was killed at Ground Zero. As you can imagine, it's heartbreaking.
But it's also funny.
I'll give you one example. All that was found of Jimmy to bury was his finger. When Jimmy shows up in Tommy's living room, his finger is duct-taped back on and he's bitching that it would have to be "my beer-opening finger."
I'm sure you're probably wondering what kind of taste this show is in, and for that I'll reference James Poniewozik's excellent article for Time:
"Rescue Me may sound disrespectful on paper, but really it's the opposite; it respects the characters enough not to patronize them or soft-pedal their sarcasm, flaws and political incorrectness."
Poniewozik also accurately describes Rescue Me as "a sort of post-9/11 M*A*S*H." True, but I was lying in bed last night afterwards when I realized which show it was reminding me of:
If you know me, you know that's pretty much the highest praise I can give a TV show. And why am I giving it? Because Homicide presented cops with their flaws and all, and it made them all the more wonderful because they weren't cookie-cutter saints. They were real people. (Especially in my head, where Munch and Kay are enjoying a nice candlelit dinner right now... but I digress.) Rescue Me does the same thing. I've always considered Denis Leary an underrated actor, but here he gives the performance of his life. You want to smack Tommy and hug him all at the same time.
Once again, FX is showing that all the really good shows are on cable now, and it's not just because you can get away with more cussing (though admittedly it helps with the realism). It's because cable is willing to take the risks, try stuff that doesn't fit the formula, give the creators freedom to follow their visions.
If you missed Rescue Me last night, look for the reruns on FX. Trust me folks, this is going to be big.