Whether she’s snorting ground-up Percocet tablets or flushing a man’s ? severed ear down a toilet, Edie Falco brings a genial forcefulness to Nurse Jackie. 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. She plays Jackie Peyton, a veteran ER nurse who’s deeply cynical about the doctors she works with and openheartedly kind to the patients in her care. ”Doctors don’t heal, they diagnose — we heal,” she says of nurses in the second episode. From anyone else, that might seem like hubris; from the woman who embodied Carmela Soprano, it just seems like common sense.
As Jackie, Falco sports a daringly unattractive short haircut that makes sense for her line of work. But an unfashionable ‘do doesn’t prevent her from removing her wedding ring before she enters the hospital and ? conducting a sweaty affair with the hospital pharmacist (Paul Schulze — Carmela’s ? priest from The Sopranos!). She has a bad back ? due to the long hours she works, which ? I suppose is meant to explain her addiction to painkillers, but Jackie seems to get ? off on the thrill of deceit nearly as much as on the pills’ agony-numbing high.
Nurse Jackie is brought to you by some of the people responsible for Lisa Kudrow’s great, short-lived The Comeback, ? as well as executive producer Caryn Mandabach, who’s worked on everything from The Cosby Show to 3rd Rock From the Sun. This mixture of comedy styles combined with Nurse Jackie’s half-hour format gives it the feel ? of a bleak sitcom that regularly veers into dramedy. Sometimes the show ? is too broad: I could have done without the scene in which the grumpy ? hospital administrator played by Anna Deavere Smith (The West Wing) ? accidentally ingests some of Jackie’s Percocet and gets giggly-loopy.
But many other aspects of the series are handled with admirable deftness. Jackie may be a ballbusting rebel at work, but you also believe that, unfaithful or not, she really loves her husband (cuddly Dominic Fumusa) and two little daughters.
And Nurse Jackie really works as a revenge fantasy. Who among us has not wanted ? to see arrogant doctors cut down to size, ? or to have someone in our corner when we’re at our most vulnerable — checking into a hospital with an extreme ailment? ? With Falco front and center, you don’t really care if Nurse Jackie gets silly, as with the ? patient whose cat attacked his scrotum ? (er, eek). You just want to keep on watching Jackie snort and snicker her way ? through another day and make it home ? with a tired smile. B+