'Rescue Me' Answers Bell for FX

After a period of waiting, fans of an FX series can finally breathe easy about the show's return next season.

No, not that one.

The cable network has picked up a fifth season of "Rescue Me," its drama about a fractured New York firefighter (co-creator Denis Leary) and his nearly equally dysfunctional crew and family. As it did with "Nip/Tuck," FX ordered 22 episodes of the show for season five, which it will split into two blocks. Production (barring a lengthy writers' strike) is due to begin in the spring.

"'Rescue Me' has always been the product of the unique vision and talents of Denis Leary [and executive producers] Peter Tolan and Jim Serpico, along with one of the best acting ensembles on television," FX chief John Landgraf says. "The show has been a great source of pride to FX, and remains one of the cornerstones of our respected brand of original series."

Last season first-run episodes of "Rescue Me" drew an average of 2.8 million viewers, with about two-thirds of those viewers falling into FX's core adults 18-49 demographic. Three weekly repeats pushed the viewer total to 4.8 million.

With the pickup of "Rescue Me," FX will have at least five original dramas on the air in 2008. "The Shield" bows out early next year, and "Dirt" and "The Riches" are slated for their second seasons. The fifth season of "Nip/Tuck," which premiered this week, will also stretch into '08.

The network has yet to make a call on "Damages," which wrapped up its first season on Oct. 23. Various accounts have the legal thriller either on the bubble for renewal or a near-lock; FX hasn't tipped its hand.