It’s not difficult to see what Showtime had in mind in the commission and development of this dark hospital dramady – the self-medicating maverick is seemingly the new bent copper. But thus far it does beg the question as to where exactly they plan on going with it. With HBO content to settle into a comfortable rhythm of perfectly adequate genre fiction, Showtime has emerged as the network of choice for character driven entertainment. Judging by the runaway success of the premiere, the channel’s most watched ever, they could have yet another hit on their hands.
Making a welcome return to our screens following six glorious seasons as matriarch of the Soprano clan, Edie Falco stars as the titular nurse Jackie, sporting a somewhat functional but unflattering haircut. A mordant, Percocet-snorting nurse at a New York City hospital, Jackie has appointed herself as something of a karmic good fairy, helping those who drift in and out of the ER like a prescription-drug-addicted Sam Beckett. A sexist, unapologetic foreign diplomat is the latest to discover this. After his hobby of cutting up prostitutes winds up costing him an ear, he finds that ear to have mysteriously flushed itself down the toilet. Jackie’s is a curious juggling act of caustic intervention and personal indiscretion punctuated by frequent trips to private corners for a little pick-me-up.
Surrounded on all sides by the deeply unpleasant and the horribly ungrateful, Jackie is flanked by a typically quirky supporting cast of veterans and newcomers. As the officious wicked witch of the ward, Mrs. Akalitus berates her for flaunting the hospital’s liability laws with her hours in one breath and asks her to do a double shift with the next. At her side is Zoey, a muffin dispensing deer-in-the-headlights nursing student constantly on the verge of breakdown who is a perfect foil for Jackie’s snarky brand of tough love. Break time means a spot of thrill fucking in the on call room with resident pharmacist Eddie, who also doubles as a supplier of medicine for her “bad back”. Finally of course comes the big reveal and we learn that at the end of a shift it’s off with the scrubs and on with the wedding ring. A short ride home finds an idyllic little homestead complete with two darling daughters and a home cooking husband.
It’s quite the sardonic quandary to be sure, and while it’s suitably intriguing and irresistibly witty, it lacks a single original bone in its body. The ballad of an overworked, underappreciated stalwart who covers for their co-workers and knows more than their bosses is one that’s being sung on nearly every single network on television. We’ve seen these beats before. Either the husband, who likely has his own issues to dredge up later, doesn’t know or doesn’t care – with the same being true for the boyfriend. While she might be a pill-popper, Jackie seems remarkably good at her job and the saving grace of the hospital. So far there seems precious little at stake and while it’s a colorful, neat little black comedy, at the moment that’s all it is.
Starring: Edie Falco, Eve Best, Peter Facinelli, Merritt Wever, Haaz Sleiman, Paul Schulze
Created By: Liz Brixius, Linda Wallem, Evan Dunsky
Showtime: Mondays, 10:30pm