Sunday, July 5, 2009


I've been resisting this new Showtime show starring Eddie Falco from THE SOPRANOS. Not because I don't think she's a great actress, but because the ads for it turned me off.

But the critics seemed to all declare it the most unique TV show ever set in a hospital, so when a mini-marathon came on last night and my boy was at his mom's and I wasn't tired, I watched four episodes over two hours, like sitting through a movie.

Falco is still a great actress. But the show is not nearly as original as critics have been saying it is. The most original thing about it is the lead's a nurse rather than a doctor and a woman rather than a man (though ER had plenty of female doctor leads and a female nurse who became a doctor etc.).

In fact, the show is full of hospital show cliches and tropes that we've been seeing on TV for decades, almost since the first hospital setting shows back in the '50s (the angry patient who the lead subdues with kindness or understanding etc. the young person who dies tragically from a hospital mistake etc.).

There is more cursing—it's cable—and the sex and drug scenes go further than network TV as well, but nothing we haven't seen before in films and even some TV shows (THE SOPRANOS for one).

If anything's original about this, it's the way it seems to be glorifying, or at least romanticizing addiction to pain killers and infidelity. If the lead had been a male these aspects of the show would be harder to take. But there is, interestingly, at least for me, a certain leeway because the star is a woman who's unfaithful and a prescription drug addict.

They justify her behavior with back pain caused from the stress and strains of her job which also lead to the need for extramarital sex etc. But coming from a man those excuses would be dismissed by most women I know.

Also the show is terribly uneven. In films it's usually the director who has the most control, though with exceptions, depending on how powerful the star is at the time or who the producers are and the studio etc. (Disney used to be famous for over controlling etc.).

On TV shows it's different, since no single director could do every show the power is more with the producers, and the star if they're at a peak power period in their careers. Though I noticed Steve Buscemi directed some episodes in which case he'd probably have more control because of his name value etc.

The producers are usually also the writers or at least creators of the idea, which is why TV series ofen end up more of a writers' medium than films, where writers are generally considered an unplesant necessity but stripped of all power, with few exceptions.

So, I guess we have to blame the writer/prpducers on NURSE JACKIE for why it's so uneven. Some of the acting is terrifically realistic and moving, Falco's most prominently, but others are so off, so pushed they're almost cartoony (like Anna Deveare Smith as a hospital administrator who was once a nurse, she's all over the place as others have noted).

And having just spent several days in the emergency room and then on a hospital ward a few weeks ago, I found most of the action on NURSE JACKIE (which is set mostly in the ER) unrealistic and way too familiar from previous hospital shows (some still on the air).

But, if you're into great acting, it is still a pleasure to watch Falco work out in this complicated role (as well as some of her fellow regulars on the show who do great work as well, especially the young actress playing the new student nurse, the men playing Falco's love interests, and the lead male nurse played by Haaz Sleiman an actor I have always dug who here has to play what already seems like a new cliche, an Islamic gay male who seems to be half Hispanic from the character's name—Mohammed De La Cruz—but who somehow Haaz makes work).

I'm still waiting for BIG LOVE to return to satisfy what little interest I still have in TV series.


AlamedaTom said...

Brother, get thee to "Breaking Bad" with all due haste.

~ Willy

Lally said...

I will definitely check it out. As I did HUNG and found it pretty clever too. And I look forward to ENTOURAGE coming back. I guess there's more out there than I implied.