Showtime Entertainment // 2009 // 334 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // February 23rd, 2010
Life is full of little pricks.
"Did anyone else see that?"
Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco, The Sopranos) is a veteran nurse who works at a New York City hospital. She works longer hours than anyone else at the hospital and she's willing to do whatever it takes to help others and to help herself get through the day. Falling under the category of "whatever it takes" are such activities as pill-popping, signature forging, "nooners" with a co-worker, making decisions well beyond her paygrade and other less-than-ethical activities. Some of these she is forced to hide; her superiors turn a blind eye to the rest. Why? Because whatever else she is, Nurse Jackie is very good at her job.
All 12 first-season episodes are spread across two Blu-ray discs:
* Chicken Soup
* School Nurse
* Tiny Bubbles
* Steak Knife
* Nose Bleed
* Ring Finger
* Health Care and Cinema
Showtime has quietly developed a reputation for creating programs centered around strong female characters with complex lives. Nurse Jackie is the latest addition to that lineup, boasting a commanding and compelling performance from Edie Falco. While Nurse Jackie is a character every bit as compelling as Tara of United States of Tara or Nancy Botwin of Weeds, I feel like the program itself hasn't quite managed to reach its full potential yet.
There is the distinct sense that Nurse Jackie is trying to achieve some measure of profundity, but as of yet I'm not sure it really knows precisely what it wants to be so insightful about. There are many little moments of truth scattered throughout these 12 episodes, small snapshots that give us some insight into these characters and the world they inhabit. Alas, the show adds up to a little less than the sum of its parts, as Nurse Jackie never quite manages to pull these pieces together in a manner that really elevates the program to the next level (not that it doesn't try). My advice is to take the little pieces as they come and make of them what you will.
However you may feel about the healthcare debating that is currently taking place in America, it must be admitted that our healthcare system is deeply flawed and in desperate need of reform/repair. Some of the best moments of the program occur when Nurse Jackie addresses these flaws on a human level, taking an intimate look at how the larger problems affect smaller individuals. It's in this area that the title character begins to approach some measure of sainthood, cutting through red tape and political B.S. to provide patients in need with a practical (though often illegal) solution. I'm reminded of Robert De Niro's rogue duct repairman in Terry Gilliam's increasingly relevant Brazil, who daringly dismissed loads of convoluted and complicated paperwork in favor of simply handling repair problems in the most logical manner possible.
Falco is most assuredly the program's greatest attribute, a fully-developed and fascinating protagonist whose flaws are made forgivable thanks to the great deal of good she does for her fellow human beings. She's the steeliest character in the program, but also the most compassionate. Sure, someone like the affable Dr. Cooper (a surprisingly hilarious Peter Facinelli, The Big Kahuna) might seem like more appealing company, but when you're a patient in need he's not the one you want in the room. There's also an intriguing contrast between Jackie's home life (where she is a loving wife and mother of two young girls) and her work life (where she is a feared and respected lone wolf) that Falco gets to play to maximum effect. Judge her if you wish, but the world would be worse off without Nurse Jackie. Her flaws enable her to be the person that she is.
I've frequently heard/read the complaint that there's no way a nurse could perform so well while taking so many drugs. I would respond to this complaint by noting that all drugs are not alike, and that under the right circumstances certain illegal substances could certainly be performance-enhancing (a fact this program is fully aware of...contrast Jackie's strong job performance with that of a co-worker whom she fires for using drugs while on the job). While there may certainly be health consequences down the road for Jackie, she isn't taking anything that would make her less effective in the present.
The hi-def transfer is disappointingly average, only managing to become genuinely strong on a handful of occasions. The show has a tendency to look a bit drab visually, bleak tones offsetting the warm pinks and blues of the hospital and wrapped in a surprisingly thick (though inconsistent) layer of grain. Flesh tones are accurate, blacks are moderately deep and detail is decent enough. Audio is merely okay as well, despite the 7.1 mix. The eclectic music come through with relative clarity, dialogue is clean and the sound design is perfectly adequate.
The supplements are a little on the thin side. Four audio commentaries featuring Falco, writer/producers Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius and co-executive producer Ritchie Jackson are offered, which are pleasant but a bit lightweight. You also get a small handful of brief EPK-style featurettes: "All About Edie" (5 minutes), "Unsung Heroes" (5 minutes), "Prepping Nurse Jackie" (11 minutes) and "Nurse Stories" (7 minutes). That's it.
Aside from my aforementioned issues with the show's lack of direction, I'm also a little disappointed by how lacking in dimension many of the supporting players are. Too many members of the supporting cast are just given one note to play: the sincere husband (Dominic Fusuma, As the World Turns), the gay best friend (Haaz Sleiman, The Visitor), the quirky administrator (Anna Deavere Smith, The West Wing) and so on. Some of the players manage to make their characters work despite their limitations (Merrit Wever as a flustered young nurse is particularly amusing in her one-note part), but the writers really need to give some of these characters more to work with.
There may not be much to separate Nurse Jackie from most television medical dramas, but Falco's performance alone makes it worth checking out. Here's hoping the rest of the show eventually starts to live up to her standard.
Review content copyright © 2010 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Showtime Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 334 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries