'Nurse Jackie' Is Fantastically Screwed Up
Edie Falco stars as an ER nurse with issues in Showtime's new drama.
Over 200 stitches, numerous stab wounds, drug snorting and other pharmaceutical abuses, a bloody ear, a bloody ear being flushed down the toilet, a forged organ donor consent on a driver's license, punching and breast touching are all just fragments of the whacky world of the first episode of Showtime's new series "Nurse Jackie."
During the show's premiere (watch the episode here), Edie Falco shocks and amazes viewers in baby blue scrubs as Jackie Peyton, a New York City hospital emergency room nurse. Jackie speaks her mind and butts heads as she works her way through her hospital ER. The short, blonde-haired, loud-mouthed character is so fantastically screwed up that you watch her every, unbelievably dark move with horror and admiration.
She is too smart to have any patience for incompetence of any kind and just high enough on pills to get through her work day. She has a chronic back problem that leads to a pill addiction. In order to supply that addiction she has an affair with Eddie Walzer, played by Paul Schulze, the hospital pharmacist, who gladly gives Jackie pain killersafter a quickie in the pharmacy.
"Make me good God, just not yet," says Jackie after the viewer learns she is married and has two kids. I could at this point launch into an academic discussion of the duality of man in order to accurately describe Nurse Jackie's character, but I'll refrain. Bottom line, Nurse Jackie is a smart, drug-snorting, sailor-mouthed adulteress with a heart you can't help but sympathize with.
How could anyone love someone so horrendous you ask? Well, Edie Falco makes it easy. Falco, who is most famous for playing Tony Soprano's wife on "The Sopranos," is simply captivating as Nurse Jackie. She brings the dark wit and charm that made her previous television character so good to Jackie, but this time she spikes it with some real compassion and evil.
Jackie has a passionate side toward her patients with an underlying layer of cynicism and a hint of regret as she deals with death and loved ones. In one of her many moments of "don't F with me" that occurred during the first episode, Jackie stands up to her superiors, who come in the form of an arrogant Dr. Fitch Cooper, played by "Twilight's" Peter Facinelli. Cooper is young, could be characterized as an "ass" and has a unique social disorder that puts him towards the top of the list for which character on the show is most screwed up. He has a sort of Tourette's syndrome where his nervousness in situations forces him to reach out and perform inappropriate sexual acts or gestures towards the females around him (during a tense scene with Jackie, Cooper reaches out and grabs her breast.).
In addition to Cooper there is an entire cast of eccentric characters that manages to blend with Falco but by no means take over the show. Also up for the award of most disturbed is Jackie's best friend on the show, Dr. Eleanor O'Hara, played by Eve Best. O'Hara is a British, dry-humored woman who could pass as being completely void of any compassion whatsoever. In one scene, O'Hara and Jackie are having dinner when an elderly woman next to them begins to choke. O'Hara, with all of her presumed medical training, simply glances at the woman and she and Jackie remark on how much time the woman has left before brain damage.
"Four minutes till brain damage," says Jackie.
"Two till she passes out," says O'Hara as she continues to chew a piece of bread and looks the other way.
Being off the clock, both O'Hara and Jackie stay seated until Jackie finally decides to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
Merritt Weaver, who plays the over enthusiastic nurse Zoey Barkow in training and Haaz Sleiman, who plays nurse Mo-Mo, round out the rest of the show's main cast. Barkow follows Jackie around like a puppy, analyzing and admiring the work she does for the hospital, in complete ignorance of Jackie's pill popping. Meanwhile, Mo-Mo serves as a sort of sassy confidante for Jackie, there to listen without the judgment.
I can't wait to see what horrible shenanigans the characters will get themselves into next week. The chemistry between the cast is superb and funny, and the hospital scenarios are balanced between believable and "not in a million years." "Nurse Jackie" is promising, and sets the stage for an entire season of what Showtime has proven to do best: really good, dark comedy.
The first episode of "Nurse Jackie" airs throughout the weekend; the show returns on Monday at 10:30 p.m. See the series schedule for more details.