I'm not really sure what to make of Nurse Jackie, Showtime's latest addition to a growing stable of programming. It's a thirty minute hospital comedy drama starring Edie Falco and based around her as the titular nurse - instead of being focused on doctors like the umpteen other drama, comedy and comedy-drama hospital shows. I watched the pilot episode and hadn't really formed an opinion, so I then watched the second episode and still didn't really form a serious opinion. The hour of watching passed by pleasantly enough, neither episode seemed to drag, but by the end of it I was left feeling an hour of my life lighter but none the wiser as to how good the show actually is.
I think the big problem I had is there was no real big punch to either episode, things just kind of happened, some were mildly amusing, nothing was really shocking and the characters are sort of very one dimensional. Of course, this early on in a shows run it's difficult to break the characters down into complex individuals, especially the non-titular ones. My notes about the characters run down as follows; gay male nurse, newbie nurse, British doctor and best friend, problematic young doctor seeking attention, another gay nurse, Jackie's affair doctor, Jackie and her family (husband plus two daughters). That's about as far as I could distinguish them, Jackie herself has a quite a bit going for her on the complexity front, but nothing I haven't seen before elsewhere.
Likewise Jackie isn't doesn't seem to have anything unique about her; she's a drug taking, straight talking, philandering, seen it all before nurse with a heart of gold. Who gets through her days on a mixture of cynicism and prescription drugs. You could almost call her a mixture of House, Cox and Gray in a nurses uniform. But, I also found that she's a bit of a success in some aspects because I didn't automatically judge her negatively which we find out she's married and cheating on her husband. It's good when a character can do bad things without automatically being hated. Some of my very favourite shows have exactly that happening.
Visually the show is quite stunning, there are some great moments, especially the 'cracking the pill' sequence from the pilot episode, a shot of which I've decided to include here.
But it really doesn't do the whole sequence justice. Likewise the opening credits, which first make their appearance in the second episode, are very striking to watch - but I found the theme tune chosen annoying. It was at odds with the appearance of the shows credits, it's rather pushy/aggressive when the credits are more sort of broken window glass in mid flight in style.
Over the pilot and second episode we're treated to multiple drug related scenes, two boob grabs, a deceased biker, fake organ donations, a flushed ear with diplomatic immunity, an affair, a kitchen floor romp in fruity pebbles, the diplomatic ear unflushing itself, newbie nurse throwing up twice and a mother who took her son's safety helmet off him in order to get better skateboarding shots. An eclectic mix of drugs, sex and death - which might well be enough to keep the show interesting, especially if there turns out to be several long term plots built up, a solid sense of time and stronger comedy in future episodes.
Right now I'd call it a mix of House, Gray's Anatomy, Green Wing and Weeds. Which means it might do quite well as it's positioned on Showtime's line up right after Weeds and has several elements in common the show. It's these elements which have one thinking I should keep an eye on this show, Weeds is something I grew to love greatly - in part because of the W.W.V.M.D? A scene which inspired me to go have a T-Shirt made. And in part because of the mix of great camera work, funny moments and ongoing drama. But unlike Weeds, which has several gripping and often funny characters, at the moment only Jackie herself is interesting here.
This is a show which bears watching and might grow into something special as time progresses.
For some additional takes on Nurse Jackie I'd like to recommend Rob Buckley's review over at The Medium is Not Enough and Memles over at Cultural Learnings. Because it's always good to get a second or third opinion on something and Memles makes some interesting comparisons between the structure of the pilot and Mad Men's pilot.
footnote: Eve Best's performance as Dr. Elenor O'Hara is pretty good in this, but her accent is that strange percuiliar creature which seems to exist only when the English are placed in an area surrounded by Americans. It's almost exactly the same accent as the one Tara Summers had in Boston Legal.