Firefighter Tommy Gavin will be heading into recovery as the second season of FX's "Rescue Me" begins tomorrow night, but that doesn't mean he'll be getting better.
"Once he gets sober, things get a hell of a lot worse before they get better," "Rescue Me" star and executive producer Denis Leary warned reporters last week.
Like just about everything else on "Rescue Me," the story of Tommy's efforts to kick the bottle is drawn from the lives of real firefighters Leary knows. Once they stopped drinking, they rediscovered the demons that led them to drink in the first place, he said.
It doesn't help that getting sober stirs up feelings that people who run into burning buildings for a living might be better off not dealing with.
"You really have to keep your emotions in check" to be able to go in without fear, he said.
That won't be easy for Tommy, who finds himself missing his family - his ex-wife disappeared with their kids in last season's finale - and working in a Staten Island firehouse where the occasional car fire isn't enough excitement for the adrenaline junkie he's become.
Though Leary and his fellow writers will rescue his character from the boonies and eventually return his family to New York, "our theme for the year has been be careful what you wish for," Leary said.
"Rescue Me's" return might be all fans of the brash, irreverent drama could wish for, but with the fourth anniversary of 9/11 approaching, will the show's preoccupation with that day lessen?
"Part of the story this year is that Tommy has to learn to move forward a little bit," Leary said.
That said, tomorrow's season premiere, co-written by Leary and executive producer Peter Tolan, features Tommy's attack on a vendor who's peddling twin towers cookies.
And while Leary said it's "problematic" for his character to move on in the way the rest of the world and even New Yorkers seem to have, he's clearly bothered himself by Ground Zero's status as a tourist site.
"Why anyone would want to visit that site and have their picture taken is beyond me, but then I knew people who died there," said Leary, who also lost a firefighter cousin in a Worcester, Mass., fire in 1999.
Though he lives in downtown Manhattan, shooting near the sight of the collapsed World Trade Center was difficult, he said.
"We were looking right into the pit, and you start thinking about all the different people and the different floors they were on and... those last radio messages," he said.
"It's all the things that come back to you about those haunting memories."