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''Rescue Me'' Winds Down

By RD Heldenfels Published: August 25, 2006

The show ends its third season on Tuesday. (A fourth season has already been ordered.) I have seen the season finale, liked parts but didn't like a couple of significant elements. I can't explain why without spoiling some things. So I'll save that for a post after it airs.

For now, the season does end with a cliffhanger; asked why, star Denis Leary said, ''Because it's television.''

But, he added, ''I'm a huge fan of 'The Sopranos' ... and my favorite 'Sopranos' seasons have ended with a lot of doubt.''

Leary said that during today's press conference-by-telephone that also included his frequent collaborator, ''Rescue Me'' writer-producer Peter Tolan. (Tolan, by the way, makes a memorable appearance in the season finale. He has acted before, but this is his first time on ''Rescue Me.'')

For starters, the karmic payback Tommy Gavin was supposed to get for his assault of Janet will come around the middle of the fourth season, along with a lot of other events spinning from what happens in the series finale.

Leary and Tolan continue to express surprise at the reaction to what some call ''the incident'' and I still prefer to think of as ''the rape.'' (Tolan did use the r-word, but in reference to what Sheila did to Tommy.) They also said they heard no reaction to Sheila's rape of Tommy -- kind of surprising since I heard from some of you folks about it.

I'm also skeptical of this idea that the payback was held for next season. I think they saw Tommy-Janet and Sheila-Tommy as morally equivalent -- even though Tommy's act was more violent -- only to discover viewers declined to agree. Of course, they've been wrong from the beginning about Tommy-Janet, and still are.

Leary gave considerable praise to Andrea Roth, who plays Janet, and Callie Thorne, who plays Sheila. Thorne, he said, ''will go anywhere. ... She's on fire when she comes to work.''

Tolan said his attempt to explain the show at Television Without Pity was ''the stupidest thing I ever did.''

The emergence of the Gavins' unseen and deaf sister Rosemary (played by ''Sue Thomas's'' Deanne Bray) was, as some viewers suspected, an allusion to the disabled and put-away Kennedy sister Rosemary. Tolan said the script even had a line referring to her being ''like that sister the Kennedys had.''

Leary is happy with his Emmy nomination but doesn't think he'll win. He's betting on Martin Sheen. Noting that Sheen has already played John and Robert Kennedy (in different TV-movies), Leary said Sheen could also play Ted ''if he wanted to start drinking ... and put on some weight.''

Asked if Tommy's voice-mail message to Johnny was left after Johnny's death -- to make Tommy look better to Janet -- Leary said he'd prefer to leave the answer until the fourth season.

As for this week's episode, I didn't post after it because, well, that was the same day that this happened. I still have a job, and am glad of it, but I have many colleagues who will not be so lucky. So Tuesday night, I was thinking more about the real world than the TV world.

With a little distance now, I can say the episode worked in some ways but made at least one horrible tactical error. Why on earth, in the middle of a wake no less, would anyone want to throw viewers off stride with a jokey cameo by Bill Belichick?

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