Rescue Me: Minisodes

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If you don’t benefit from the corpulent pathos of Tony Soprano, how do you keep your audience jonesing for shows during a yearlong hiatus?

FX is trying minisodes. This week, the first of 10 four- to five-minute original minisodes of “Rescue Me” debut -- an effort to keep the Denis Leary vehicle salient between the yearlong, strike-imposed interregnum of Season 4 (ended last year) and the start of Season 5 (slated for April 2009). The minisodes debut after the FX telecast on Crackle.com, YouTube, MySpace, Hulu, AOL Video, Tidal TV, Joost and Sprint TV.

The minisodes don’t pick up on story lines left dangling from the previous season. Rather, they’re single-scene vignettes intended to remind viewers of the show’s jocular, pro-prig, Leary-inspired insight into the masculine condition (an erudite style of axiom-dishing that, despite its consistent hilarity, will never regain the self-introspective heights of Leary’s 1993 ballad “Asshole”).

But the minisodes are a good plan. Divorced of doom-and-gloom story arcs and the associated truculent jackassery of Tommy Gavin (Leary), the minisodes are lighthearted comedic riffs. To wit, the first minisode, in which Sean Garrity (Steven Pasquale) explains to a table of his doughnut-munching fellow firefighters the cathartic, bowels-loosening power of “the cleanse.” Episode 2 is a nesting doll of dream sequences about threesomes and homosexuality, while in Episode 3, the firehouse discusses the criteria for a good watering hole.

The minisodes don’t advance the plot, but they do remind you of the show’s character-driven excellence. For the summer at least, “Rescue’s” dramedy is all comedy.

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