It is hard for me to hear Edie Falco’s voice and not think of Carmella Soprano. Even with a shorter hair cut and hospital scrubs the voice just gets me thinking Tony and company every time she speaks. Nurse Jackie though, is a far cry from the mafia wife. She is a drug-addicted and adulterous disaster doubling as an exceptional and over-achieving nurse. Nice juxtaposition. Obvious and a bit cliché, but nice.
From the outset we get these conflicting, or at least separate, truths about Jackie. She snorts some lines and then diagnoses a boy with a brain bleed. She trains nurses and bangs colleagues. She saves lives and dupes doctors into writing her prescriptions. She is professional and sinful. Dedicated and tortured. She drums up the drugs and sex to “fulfilling earthly desires” (don’t we all?) while outwardly cares only about her patients and their well being. The conflict is interesting. Unfortunately, the show is not.
I found myself wanting some of Jackie’s drugs about half way through the episode. Not because I particularly like popping pills, but because I just wanted something else to do. The writing aims for dark comedy and while it hits the mark here and there, more often it came across as choppy and meandering. I am sure the goal was to make Jackie an anti-hero of sorts; f-ed up, borderline criminal nurse whose personal life is crumbling but puts it all on the line for her patients. The problem is that for anti-heroes to succeed we need to root for them in spite of their negatives. I didn’t root for her at all, on any level. Even when she went above and beyond for her patients I didn’t feel connected to her cause. If anything, the patient care came off shallow in light of her other transgressions.
There were times when the humor got through, but these moments were few and far between. A couple of the auxiliary characters exhibited promise although I didn’t feel connected to their role in the overall plot. If anything, they serve as a means to a writing end; a chance to throw in a joke to take the edge off. They acted as an apology for focusing on Jackie the entire episode. I got the sense that the writers would have made this a one woman show if left to their own devices.
Nurse Jackie has some promise, but not enough to keep me coming back for more. I just need to come up with a medical reference conveying my thoughts here. Flatline? Do not resuscitate? Dead on arrival? Take your pick.
Nurse Jackie - Series Premiere
Starring: Edie Falco, Eve Best, Peter Facinelli, Paul Schulze, Haaz Sleiman, Merritt Wever
Premieres: Monday, June 8 at 10:30 pm EST on Showtime