Rescue Me Creator Faces Viewer Rage Over Controversial Episode...

Here are a couple of things Peter Tolan, the co-creator of FX's "Rescue Me," learned the hard way last week:

1. If you have your lead character beat and rape his estranged wife, don't expect viewers everywhere to welcome the scene as the culmination of a complicated dramatic arc.

2. Trying to explain yourself on an Internet message board can be like attempting to lecture on Shakespeare in the middle of a rugby scrum.

Taking risks comes naturally to the creators of "Rescue Me"; the series, after all, is a delicately balanced comedy-drama that explores the screwed-up lives of a group of fictional New York firefighters, the same fraternity who were dubbed "America's Heroes" after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. But last week's episode, co-written by Tolan and star Denis Leary, went way too far for many fans and critics.

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