On the surface Nurse Jackie looks a lot like another doctor show on television right now. Starring Edie Falco as the titular Nurse Jackie Peyton, viewers get a glimpse into the life of a strong, loving, and yet also hard to love nurse and her rather complicated life. When she is not busy saving lives and making sure idiot doctors don’t get in the way, she is doing her best to keep her rather messy work life from colliding with her already hectic home life. She is also nursing a killer painkiller addiction she is keeping from everyone she knows, as well as another pretty big secret (which I won’t reveal here).
I have to admit, other than this show, I haven’t seen any of Falco’s work on the Sopranos. However, I do know that when an actor from a popular TV show ventures off to headline his or her own series, it is a pretty big deal. Will the show work? Will viewers be able to disconnect them from their previous work and focus on this show? Can this actor even hold a show on their own after being a part of an ensemble this whole time? Luckily, in this case, all these questions can be answered with a resounding yes, thanks in part to a great writing and great acting one-two punch.
Creators Evan Dunsky, Liz Brixtius, and Linda Wallem have written a very interesting show. The dialogue is at times very funny, yet very poignant. Its storylines teeter on hilarious and sometimes sad, and it is that healthy balance that makes the show so appealing. They also have created a unique title character in Nurse Jackie.
Yes, she does share some qualities with another pill-popping tough talking Doctor but her character’s interesting wrinkle is that she isn’t anything special. She is not better than anyone else, she is not smarter. She didn’t have to overcome some obstacle to be the person she is today. Jackie’s life is stressful but good and perfect, which makes her vices and addictions even more interesting to watch. Why does she do the things she does to herself and most importantly, to those who love her? I like that the creators have not shed any light onto the reasons for Jackie’s shortcomings. It makes the character feel more real and human.
Of course, all the good writing in the world does nothing unless you have a stellar cast to pull it all together. Falco does a pretty convincing job as the no-nonsense Jackie. While her actions sometimes make the character hard to love, Falco somehow injects warmness to Jackie that makes her hard to hate. She also does a pretty damn good job carrying a show, but a gold star needs to be rewarded to her supporting cast. I have watched a lot of TV shows in my time and this is one of the few times where I think I enjoy watching the supporting cast more than the title character.
From fellow nurse Mohammed “Mo-Mo” (Haaz Sleiman) to Jackie’s chain smoking best friend Dr. Elenor O’Hara (Eve Best), it is the show’s eccentric peanut gallery that makes it run so smoothly. My personal favorite supporting character? Naive but good natured nurse Zooey (Merritt Weaver). She is so sweet and adorable; you can’t help but fall in love with her character. It troubled me to hear that one of these characters won’t be returning for the second season. Hopefully, this will not change the dynamic of the series too much.
I only had two issues with the first season as a whole. For one thing, the season final ended with quite a whimper. It looked as if Jackie’s work and home life was about to face each other head on but no such conflict occurred. It didn’t feel like a cliffhanger but more like someone left out a part of the last episode.
The extras on the DVD are also a bit sparse. A couple of featurettes and some commentary tracks. Nothing too amazing.
Nurse Jackie is a great example of a show that works best because of the sum of its parts. The writing is excellent and Falco is believable as the fallible Jackie. The cherry on the top though, is the stellar supporting cast helping her on the way. Nurse Jackie is a must watch on Showtime.