Forget for a minute that "Rescue Me," (search) Denis Leary's great, gritty new drama is in part inspired by my friend Terry Quinn, a firefighter who was married to my other friend, Patty D'Arbanville ("The Sopranos").

And forget for another minute that "Rescue Me" is on a network owned by the same folks that pay my salary. Really. Forget all that because about one minute into the show, I did.

I also want you to forget any crazy notion that if a critic doesn't praise a show on their own company's network their bosses will come around wielding axes. Not true.

True: I haven't been this enthusiastic about a show since — yes — "The Sopranos," (search) because "Rescue Me" is as well written, as well acted and as brilliantly cast. "Rescue Me," in a word, is smokin'.

It's about the New York firefighters of 62 Truck. Leary is Tommy Gavin, a guy who survived 9/11 but lost his best friend and cousin, Jimmy Keefe (James McCaffrey).

Keefe may be dead, but he's still very much alive in Gavin's life. In fact, he regularly visits him and they talk to each other.

Gavin is a regular guy who happens to be tormented by demons and haunted by his friend. He's also in the middle of a divorce. His estranged wife, Janet (Andrea Roth), is dating a successful Wall Street guy (Jay Potter), the polar opposite of Tommy.

And she's thinking of moving out of state with their three kids.

The guys in the fire house include Lt. Lou Shea (John Scurti), a man who secretly writes poetry to get him through his depression over 9/11; Franco Rivera (Daniel Sunjata), a ladies' man who is often the voice of reason; Mike Siletti (Michael Lombardi), the probie who is the brunt of every joke; and Sean Garrity (Steven Pasquale), who is generally wrong about just about everything that would have required opening a newspaper.

Charles Durning plays Gavin Sr., and Dean Winters plays Gavin's brother, a NYPD detective. Appropriately enough, real life firefighter, Ed Sullivan, plays Billy Warren, the guy who has an insanely accurate memory of floor plans of every building in Manhattan.

Off the job, there's Keefe's widow, Sheila (Callie Thorne). Has she become a lesbian? Is she dating a married firefighter? Is she a grieving widow who can't get past her sorrow?

In an age when TV is quickly going the way of all idiots, a show like this is a gift.

I watched three episodes and can't wait to see more! more! more!

"Rescue Me" - Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX

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