STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $39.98
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 333 minutes
•Cast and Crew Commentaries
•”All About Edie” Featurette
•”Unsung Heroes” Featurette
•”Prepping Nurse Jackie” Featurette
•Nurse Stories

The Pitch

Edie Falco is Nurse Jackie, the pill-snorting, adulterous nurse who cares.

The Humans

Starring: Edie Falco, Eve Best, Merritt Wever, Haaz Sleiman, Paul Schulze, Peter Facinelli, Anna Deavere Smith

Created by Linda Wallem, Evan Dunsky & Liz Brixius

“Ugly? You ain’t no prize pony yourself, ma’am.”

The Nutshell

Nurse Jackie joins the ranks of several other Showtime hits centered around strong female leads. Edie Falco removes the shadow of The Sopranos from above herself, helping to reinvigorate the extremely tired hospital drama, and solidifying herself as one of television’s greatest actresses.

The Lowdown

How can one not be influenced by Mad Men in this current climate of television? The pilot episode of Nurse Jackie follows a similar story structure of introducing us to our damaged heroine in the heat of her job. Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) is a very good nurse at a Christian hospital in Manhattan who has a relationship with her co-worker Eddie (Paul Schulze), the pharmacist who helps sneak her medications. Her addiction to pills and amphetamines is under control, or so she claims, as it helps her deal with the stresses of working in an emergency room. She gets assigned a meek new girl, Zoey (Studio 60’s Merritt Wever), who is overly perky and has no real life nursing experience. But that’s okay because underneath Jackie’s no nonsense exterior she quite a loving mother to all those who fall within her influence. In the end of the pilot episode, we find out that Jackie has a life outside the hospital, including a loving husband and two young girls. This reveal doesn’t pack the punch that the Mad Men pilot had, but they are going for a much different tone on ‘Jackie’ than the much loved AMC series. Still, this is probably the third pilot this reviewer has seen since Mad Men premiered to use a similar tactic.

Don Raper.

The show starts to hit its stride by episode two, and soon it becomes a serialized dramedy as Jackie deals with the endless sea of patients, careless doctors including her only confidant Dr. Eleanor O’hara (Eve Best) and grabby newbie Dr. Fitch Cooper (Peter Facinelli) and for some reason, a disproportionate amount of gay male nurses. Maybe this is just standard for the nursing profession, but it seems odd that there isn’t a single straight male nurse on the entire show. In fact, the second gay male nurse we meet seems to only be there for the initial joke where he is named Thor, is big and intimidating, and then turns out to be light as a lamb. Also along for the ride is Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith), Jackie’s boss and a former nurse, who acts as the “Bob Kelso” to Jackie’s “Perry Cox”. They are at odds, with Akalitus usually losing in ways only sitcom villains can.

Though Nurse Jackie tries to firmly plant itself in reality, it is certainly highlighted reality. The drama feels real, but every time the show gets humorous, it feels sitcom-lite. An episode has Akalitus trapped in an elevator; another has her secretly keeping a randomly found baby in her office for days. Dr. Cooper has lesbian mothers, and a nervous tic that makes him grab boobs. Falco truly holds the show up with her excellent portrayal of Jackie, for which she received a much deserved Golden Globe nomination. In anyone else’s hands this could have been a disastrous misstep, just another medical drama/comedy that no one needs. Unfortunately what this implies is that most everyone surrounding Jackie does in fact seem like they are cobbled together from other well worn television shows. Only Eddie feels like a solid supporting character, and if the current storyline goes ahead, who knows how he would remain with the show? Apparently the cast is changing somewhat for Season Two, so we shall see how this plays out.

Hiring an all-female cast for The Late Shift 2: Zucker Never Sleeps was a masterstroke.

Inevitably over the course of Season One we watch the undoing of Jackie’s perfectly balanced deception on all sides. There is a reoccurring visual cue of extreme close ups of pills, liquids, drugs of all kinds as Jackie ingests them. It is somewhat reminiscent of the opening title sequence to American Psycho in its simple elegant cinematography, but without the wit that film applied to it. From the get go the way others seem to be catching on to her secret home life or addictions stretch the believability that she has been living this way for years. The season ends on a cliffhanger that doesn’t feel appropriate in the universe at hand, and just makes the entire season seem like a set up to a story that has yet to truly unfold. Luckily those of us catching on recently won’t have to wait long, as Season Two of Nurse Jackie premieres on Showtime March 22nd.

“Hey, wanna see a reverse circumcision?”

The Package

Nurse Jackie comes packaged in a folding digipak inside a slipcase. Of the three discs, two are inexplicably stacked on one another, which is always bothersome. The show is presented in its original 1.78:1 Widescreen format with optional 5.1 Dolby Digital EX surround sound or 2.0 Dolby Digital for the surround challenged. Four episodes feature Audio Commentary from the producer/writer/creators and star Falco. The commentaries discuss certain elements of producing the show in brief, but mostly consist of laughing at the show. Not recommended, especially when two other featurettes exist across the first two discs that delve into the origins and production of the show. Fun fact – half the season was directed by Steve Buscemi. The “Unsung Heroes” Featurette has the cast and crew talking about the real life nurses that are so inspirational and the “Nurse Stories” shorts continue that thread. Each story was originally broadcast as a commercial for Nurse Jackie and features a real life nurse telling the craziest thing they’ve come across in their experience, including everything from an elderly woman masturbating to meeting their future spouse on the job. There is a ‘play all’ option.

7.4 out of 10