05/29/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT
FX (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET)
BY TOM GLIATTO
The third season of Denis Leary's series about a New York City firefighter debuts May 30. You could say it comes roaring back.
These characters' tongues should all be covered in ashes from so much daily bitterness, and their eyes stinging from both tears and embers: Tommy Gavin (Leary) is a recovering substance abuser with a marriage torn apart after his young son was killed by a drunk driver. His father (Charles Durning) is a sad, declining old man. His station chief (Jack McGee) can't afford the payments to keep his wife, sick with Alzheimer's, in the nice clinic she thinks is an art school. In one tough scene, the chief's brother-in-law, a car dealer, refuses to lend a hand financially. The chief, on the way out, keys one of the showroom models.
But Leary is also a producer and creator of the show, and every so often the bitterness is blasted away with tart, smart humor. Tommy is both fascinated and appalled to learn that his teenage godson Damien is having an affair with a high school teacher. "I had Sister Mary Shovel Face," Leary says, as always spitting out his lines with a fine trail of venom. "You get Sharon Stone." When one of the firefighters decides to get a grip on his drinking problem, he goes to the self-help section of a bookstore and steals The Tao of Pooh—a funny but incredibly touching moment.