Nurse Jackie: Season 2
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Nurse Jackie: Season 2

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When considering a movie or television with the intended result being a review I’m caught between appreciation of the quality of the project’s construction and just not liking the content. Frequently when this occurs I have to look at the possibility that the main characters and inherent circumstances might intentionally unlikeable. For example Hannibal Lecter is without a doubt one of cinema’s most heinous and creepiest monsters but the portrayal of this character by Sir Anthony Hopkins is one of film’s greatest performances. A similar quagmire presented itself when I was request to review the second season of Showtime’s ‘Nurse Jackie’. I have to admire the construction of the series but aside from the production values there is not much about the main character to like. In most medical series that have maintained a near constant presence on television the main character may be gruff, harsh nut ultimately there is a foundation of a few likeable characteristics. Even with the infamous Doctor Gregory House the story lines have established his genius and persistence that can assist offsetting is addiction and misanthropic tendencies. With Nurse Jackie beautifully played by Edie Falco you might think similar factors might soften the viewers’ perception of her character. To some extent they do but ultimately the major difference is House is carried by the medical mystery each episode presents. The off putting nature of House becomes a strange part of the appeal. With Nurse Jackie the series is fundamentally a soap opera where most of the ancillary characters coming off just as annoying as Nurse Jackie. I did give two seasons of this series a chance and while I appreciate the excellence of the craftsman ship I do feel it treads too lightly of professional responsibility a life critical field. One of my best friends is a nurse practitioner and not do I greatly respect he I have entrusted her with my power of attorney during a prolonged hospital stay. I could not muster that level of confidence with a woman like this character.

The series was created by the team of Evan Dunsky, Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius. They had previous experience but the thing about going off in an experimental track is experience might not directly relate to the current project. In this instance the creators word mainly in traditional venues like forensic crime dramas and sit-coms. It had to be a significant change in pace to move on to such a darkly based humor as drives this program. Jackie Peyton (Falco) is a working mother. She has a husband, Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) and two young daughters Grace (Ruby Jerins) and Fiona (Mackenzie Aladjem).Kevin works nights at the bar he owns while Jackie works at a Catholic Hospital in New York City. On the surface it may appear to be an idyllic life except for Jackie it borders on a nightmare. She has been having an affair with the hospital pharmacist Eddie Walzer (Paul Schulze). Sure Jackie enjoys the clandestine sexual component of the relationship but the real draw is his ready access to Jackie’s drugs of choice; Adderall to pick her up and Vicodin for subduing her emotional pain. Basically Jackie is cheating on her husband, endangering her children and patients, threatening her profession standing as well as her own life. It is extremely difficult to see this character in any positive light. Sure you can bring yourself to rationalize addiction is a disease but Jackie’s personae goes far beyond that. She is the product of countless bad decisions most of which she is able to avoid any real consequences. The fist season looked as if she was going to take her own life but Jackie is back compounding the same mistakes again.

One consequence that looms dangerously close is when Jackie breaks things off with Eddie. He comes into the bar befriending Kevin. The general level of disruption is having an effect on grace. She is rapidly becoming obsessive and morose.

With such negative themes and personalities something has to be added to lighten the mood. There is the newbie nurse, a trope I call the Bambi nurse since she always looks like a deer stuck in the headlights. That position goes to student nurse Zoey Barkow (Merritt Wever). She idolizes Jackie seeing her as a mentor. She is generally depicted as silly and flighty. She does provide a counterpoint to the morally reprehensible and illegal behavior of Jackie. Then there is the main doctor in the show, Dr. Fitch "Coop" Cooper (Peter Facinelli) who seems to be getting over his first season predilection of ‘coping’ a feel under the guise of some bogus malady. This season he hires a publicity agent and scores an ego stroking position of poster doctor for the hospital’s publicity campaign. Both Coop and Zoey are played well by their respective actors but the humor inherent in their antics is drawn far too broad to be completely effective. The negative characters are created with a fine brush while a roller was brought to bear bringing the more positive figures to life. Jackie tries to rectify some of these problems by dumping Eddie and spending more time with Kevin and the kids. Unfortunately much of the damage is too deep. Another ongoing to distract from the darkness is Jackie’s’ best friend, the wealty and flamboyant Dr. Eleanor O'Hara (Eve Best). Against Jackie’ express wish by providing tuition for the girls. In all this series deserved the awards it received I just couldn’t bring myself to like anybody in it.

Posted 02/10/11

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