Denis Leary in Rescue Me by Barbara Nitke/FX
After Wednesday's formless, scattershot finale of Rescue Me, I'm with Charles Durning. Almost. Head down, eyes closed, taking a long, long nap. For me, this respite will last until next summer, when Rescue Me returns for its fifth and what we have to hope will be a more satisfying season.

For Durning, who played Tommy's dad, there's no waking up. Will he in retrospect be seen as the lucky one?

In a poignant though not entirely unpredictable moment, made more notable for a quiet tenderness one rarely sees on this raw and raucous show, Tommy's dad slipped away into a final rest as he sat beside his son at a minor-league baseball game. He brushes something off his clothes and then he's gone. Just like that. Sure beats the violent end that has come to most people Tommy has lost during the run of this series. And yet: sad. Denis Leary played the reaction beautifully. Poor Tommy.

I will try to resist using the most obvious baseball-as-life-metaphor analogy here: that much of this season was not ready for the majors. It started promisingly enough, and had plenty of hilarious and harrowing and tragic moments along the way. It's not like Rescue Me stopped being watchable. But it rarely gelled into anything memorable: a few of those bizarre family group meetings, maybe, and Amy Sedaris as the new chief's bipolar daughter, absolutely.

Still, there were few payoffs to anything, not even for pivotal events like Jerry's suicide, Sean burning down ex-Probie's house, the hiring of "Black Sean," Tommy's latest bitter split with Janet, his hookup with a variety of sexually voracious and predatory women ( Jennifer Esposito, then Gina Gershon), and most recently the bizarre subterfuge of fighting fires in dead Jimmy Keefe's jacket (which did prompt one sensational meltdown in the finale from Callie Thorne, who as usual rose above one of the show's most thanklessly shrewish roles).

This season's romantic/sexual entanglements for New York's horniest fictional firefighters played even worse, though none ended up being as controversial as last summer's Tommy/Janet "reunion." This summer Rescue Me meandered, it often sputtered and it was undeniably upstaged by more provocative dramas like AMC's brilliant Mad Men and FX's new and twisted Damages. Where's the fire?

Maybe the new chief filling out "Section 8" papers for Tommy means the entire season can be excused for reasons of insanity.