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Herc Monitors The Vitals On
Showtime’s NURSE JACKIE!!

Published at: June 12, 2009, 4:37 p.m. CST

I am – Hercules!!
A Showtime sitcom from writer-producers Evan Dunsky (“CSI”), Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem (“That ‘70s Show,” “Help Me Help You”), “Nurse Jackie” follows a promiscuous, substance-abusing New York health-care provider and mom (Edie Falco) willing to bend the rules to help those in need. She says things like “Quiet and mean; those are my people,” but likes to hide her big heart. Observations: * The first six episodes didn’t make me laugh once, but I can say that about 99 percent of the first six episodes of every sitcom ever made. * I enjoyed these six episodes more than almost all of the Stamos-era episodes of “ER.” * So far “Nurse Jackie” isn’t nearly as good as Falco’s two prior pay-cable series, “Oz” and “The Sopranos.” * I can’t say I enjoyed “Nurse Jackie” as much as I did the pilot for USA’s new New York medical show, “Royal Pains.” (Though I do like the title “Nurse Jackie” a lot more than “Royal Pains.”) * “Nurse Jackie” is not as realistic or anywhere near as funny as “St. Elsewhere.” When I think back to the laughs I derived from Drs. Craig and Ehrlich, “Jackie” almost feels like punishment; cutesy, well-worn, preachy and predictable by comparison. * The bald guy Jackie is having an affair with is played by Paul Schulze, who earlier played the priest Carmella lusted after in “The Sopranos.” * The series features as regular characters no fewer than two gay male nurses. * The sixth episode centers on Judith Ivey as a dying old nurse whose profoundly salty language may elicit big laughs from those who haven’t seen the same sort of thing executed far more expertly in more than a dozen R-rated big-screen comedies. * The series co-stars adorable Merritt Wever, who played Danny Tripp’s assistant Suzanne on “Studio 60,” as a student nurse, and she is a welcome presence even if she’s saddled with a character who is too often an absurd sitcom caricature. * “Nurse Jackie” isn’t nearly as good or funny as the first three seasons of “M*A*S*H,” which it resembles slightly, and Larry Gelbart didn’t enjoy the benefit of allowing Hawkeye to say “cunt” and “fuck” all the time. * If you care to sample an enterprise that makes frequent use of the word “cunt” and does makes me laugh, I direct you to my new favorite talk show, Adam Carolla’s cost-free, commercial-free and hilarious and addictive daily podcast. The New York Times says of “Nurse Jackie”:
… It has one of the most talented actresses on television as its lead, and yet over all “Nurse Jackie” is surprisingly, and disconcertingly, off key. This is a drama draped in black humor that doesn’t know when to be funny. The wonderful Anna Deavere Smith as Gloria Akalitus, an interfering hospital administrator, has the worst of it: her character is a pompous dunce in the manner of Frank Burns on “M*A*S*H.” She is too clownish, and the joke of her nitpicking personality is oversold. Peter Facinelli plays Fitch Cooper, a callow doctor with a Tom Cruise breeziness and a rare nervous disorder, and he too is at times forced over the edge of caricature. … Too many early scenes that are supposed to be taut and acidly funny are instead blowsy and overblown; humor is a delicate instrument, and here it is pasted on too roughly, like a campaign poster hurriedly slapped onto a street sign. … not as seditious as it seeks to be, but when it stops trying too hard, it’s an enjoyable drama, and that’s not so bad.
The Los Angeles Times says:
… if the setup is a bit predictable, the characters the actors conjure are not. Smith brings a pearl-wearing canniness to her uptight administrator, Best's O'Hara is a witty breath of over-the-top chick-lit opulence fighting a surgeon's exhaustion, and Wever's Zoey is just delightful, a perfect contrast to the compact, compressed and battened-down Jackie. …
The Chicago Tribune says:
… "Nurse Jackie" isn't perfect. The show's supporting characters, particularly Paul Schulze ("The Sopranos'" Father Phil) as Jackie's in-hospital pill supplier and Eve Best as an elegant and sardonic physician, have some outstanding moments (and more screen time for the wonderfully subtle Schulze is a must). But Zoey and Mrs. Akalitus come off as one-dimensional much of the time; the former is too dopey and the latter is too mean. … Despite those quibbles, the six episodes Showtime sent for review zipped by, for the most part. The half-hour format is perfect for this deftly directed program, which is character-based storytelling concentrated to espresso strength. The sixth episode of "Nurse Jackie," which was written by former Chicago playwright Rick Cleveland ("Six Feet Under," "Mad Men") had me in tears in less than 30 minutes -- but it also made me laugh out loud more than once. …
The Washington Post says:
… full of sly twists and startling variations on familiar med-show traditions; this is not just another lament about the long hours and difficult conditions common to those who toil in hospitals. Nor are they all do-gooders and humanitarians. Even the frankness and realism of the late, great "ER" are outdone by "Nurse Jackie's" penetrating and irreverent candor. …
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… a slow-developing but engrossing character study of a woman who wants a little more of something in life - it's just not entirely clear what that might be. …
The Boston Globe says:
… This is a show about consequences, not actions. The consequences, though, offer ample room for pathos, and a terrific set of supporting characters makes it clear why Nurse Jackie needs the pills. Too many people depend on her …
Entertainment Weekly says:
… It's the latest bit of cutting-edginess from Showtime, a new series that could have come off as jaded or self-satisfied were Falco not anchoring it with such firm authority. …
USA Today says:
… Monday night's premiere expertly creates a world we recognize, an understaffed New York emergency room, and populates it with fascinating characters who all ring true. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… Is "Jackie" believable? Not in the least. But the fantastical creation of Jackie Peyton, perhaps surprisingly, has shades of gray that make her very real indeed. Both show and character are something wonderful to behold -- and worth taking multiple doses of. …
Variety says:
… a half-hour that's not particularly funny, simply dark and bleak, yet without much high-stakes drama. Alas, even Showtime can't quite live by "quirky" alone. … While the title character is consistently rough and the language blue, in subsequent episodes (Showtime sent six out for review) the series increasingly feels like all style and limited substance -- a star showcase that's less "triumphant return" than "Nice to have you back, but ... ."
10:30 p.m. Monday. Showtime.

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Readers Talkback

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  • June 8, 2009, 4:03 a.m. CST

    Carola

    by gotilk

    I second that. Could we all pitch in and buy him some mics though?

  • June 8, 2009, 4:04 a.m. CST

    But with an additional "L".

    by gotilk

    Damn.

  • June 8, 2009, 5:03 a.m. CST

    Adam Carrolla is one funny cunt

    by IMFletch

    I download with iTunes and listen in my car. Makes the commute soooo much better. He's made me laugh so hard I've actually had to pull over and stop the car so I didn't get in an accident.

  • June 8, 2009, 5:20 a.m. CST

    herc - dont be shocked you didnt get nurse jackie

    by palewook

    think this show is aimed at the female audience. its just bipolar, wanting to be for men and women, fails at male, and forgets to be for women. <p> i see a 1 season series unless showtime decides to make a second season just for the sake of having a second season.

  • June 8, 2009, 6:53 a.m. CST

    Are there Big Bouncy Breast and Lesbian Sex?

    by EvilWizardGlick

    Naked Big Bouncy Breasts of course.

  • June 8, 2009, 8:44 a.m. CST

    Pilot had it's flaws, but shows a lot of potential

    by ev1ldead

    Of course way better than hercs Royal Pain in the ass soap on USA. Even for a dramedy (SITCOM..are you kidding?)there are too few LOL moments, but the humor is the most cynical I've ever seen in a hospital show. Think of Samuel Shem's House of God. Edie Falco shows leading lady charisma and her character seems really interesting and more believable than your typical cynical wise ass doctor like House. Can't say much about the supporting characters after a 30 minute pilot, but her lover and the young doctor played by Facinelli stood out. Compared to other showtime pilots from the last few years I would place Jackie behind Californication(remember: Herc doesn't like that either), Weeds and Dexter, on par with Tara and better than The Tudors season 1. With a little finetuning here and there it can become another winner for showtime.

  • June 8, 2009, 9:12 a.m. CST

    Just watched the pilot. Loved it

    by Chain

    Falco is a tour de force in this show. Some really good honest observations are made that you don't get on network enough or with the same bluntness. Unpredictable and yet not. Jackie has a heart of gold but it's got a price being so empathetic. will watch this one.

  • June 8, 2009, 10:23 a.m. CST

    Is it a comedy? Is it a dramedy? Is it a serious series?

    by santoanderson

    The marketing for this show is just off. All the Nurse Jackie web banners make me think she's crazy... but that could just be Edie Falco. She should just go back to 30 Rock.

  • June 8, 2009, 10:50 a.m. CST

    Adam Carolla is the Jean Sheppard for Gen X

    by Greggers

    I'm liable to catch all kinds of hell for what I just wrote in that subject line, but to hear Carolla waxing nostalgic about his days growing up in California in the 70s and 80s, and about his assortment of knucklehead friends and associates -- it's like a vulgar version of Sheppard's monologues, or a modern version of Steinbeck's TORTILLA FLATS. He's a inadvertant raconteur, and when he's really rolling, he's one of the best things on the internet.* <br><br> *Offer may not include occasional dips into Archie Bunker-esque racism and homophobia.

  • June 8, 2009, 11:08 a.m. CST

    Well, I liked it.

    by fanboy71

    I loved the Sopranos, but was never a big fan of Falco. I watched Nurse Jackie a week ago on on demand and thought it was very good. I laughed a few times, and really enjoyed the characters and their interactions. I didn't go into it thinking it was a sitcom, and that I would laugh. I actually thought it was a drama, so the laughs were nice. I love the Doctor (Peter "I'll kick everyone's ass in this room!" Facinelli) who has a tendency to act out sexually when nervous, like tourettes. All in all it's no Dexter, but it's enjoyable.

  • June 8, 2009, 11:20 a.m. CST

    I liked it

    by punto

    it's not a sitcom, so why compare it to them? I'm not that into this whole "us nurses, we know more than the doctors because we have a heart" bullshit tho. get a goddamned education and try again.

  • June 8, 2009, 11:20 a.m. CST

    I liked it

    by punto

    it's not a sitcom, so why compare it to them? I'm not that into this whole "us nurses, we know more than the doctors because we have a heart" bullshit tho. get a goddamned education and try again.

  • June 8, 2009, 12:19 p.m. CST

    its "nurse" with cussing, sex and drugs

    by bacci40

    most of your are too young to remember michael lerned's show...but that is what it reminded me of<p> the characters are indeed cliche' as are the situations<p> ill watch for falco, but thats it

  • June 8, 2009, 12:23 p.m. CST

    ya, carolla is scary talented

    by bacci40

    so talented, that he is working for free<p> when stern left the terrestrial radio, the medium died

  • June 8, 2009, 1:43 p.m. CST

    well, it seems like these reviews

    by oisin5199

    mostly disagree with Herc. I'm having less and less faith in his reviews anyway. I don't get Showtime, but we'll probably watch this online or DVD. Still gotta catch up with last season of Weeds!

  • June 8, 2009, 2:03 p.m. CST

    If it's on cable, it must have tits in it right?

    by lockesbrokenleg

    I bet this thing wins 100 awards at the next Emmy's.

  • June 8, 2009, 2:15 p.m. CST

    FALCO IS THE FUGLIEST HAG ON TV.

    by TITBAG

    OMFG. A GIANT FLAT ASS AND A FACE THAT ONLY A MOTHER COULD LOVE. POSITIVELY THE UNSEXIEST WOMAN EVER. HERE'S HOPING THAT SOMEONE JUST PUNCHES HER IN THE FACE REAL SOON.

  • June 8, 2009, 2:20 p.m. CST

    Is Cloris Leachman on this?

    by lockesbrokenleg

  • June 8, 2009, 3:06 p.m. CST

    Ryan Chappelle lives!!!

    by Willyer Hero

  • June 8, 2009, 3:49 p.m. CST

    pardon me

    by NudeandAroused

    i remember getting razzed that I didn't laugh at "The first 10 minutes" of "30 Rock." Not that I didn't deserve it. I guess, though Herc didn't laugh either?

  • June 8, 2009, 4:10 p.m. CST

    Falco isn't pretty but....

    by Han Cholo

    She has one juicy ass! I was surprised when she went nude on the Sopranos. That is one great ass.

  • June 8, 2009, 4:39 p.m. CST

    enjoyed the pilot

    by ls420

    major potential, good partner to weeds.

  • June 8, 2009, 5:59 p.m. CST

    Sounds like House

    by Crooooooow

    with a vagina

  • June 8, 2009, 6:38 p.m. CST

    Nurse Generic...

    by Henry Fool

    What I love about these cable shows is that they've been giving us topics we don't see on the ordinary networks. The mafia, morticians, the royal family, a pot dealing mom. These are all shows who's unique premises made them immediately appealing. Now Showtime puts out a show with an actress who's an icon in of the cable drama and all they can give us is another medical soap opera? I mean if it were a show like the BBC's, Red Wing, where the medical establishment is really criticized. But I'm sick of all these shows that glorify doctor's and cops and paints them as superheroes. That kind of kind of stuff just reeks of propaganda.

  • June 9, 2009, 1:34 p.m. CST

    nurse generic? did anyone here actually watch this?

    by karmakitten13

    First of all, I didnt think it was meant to be a comedy. Its in that weird grey area of being a dark dramedy. And to call her generic? What generic nurse do you know that snorts meds to get thru the day, forges a patients donor card signature, and steals a fat ass money clip from another? I think this first episode shows real potential.