I'm back in Buffalo for some family fun times, and as such, I have access to Showtime On Demand, which is currently offering the pilot episode of the new Edie Falco
The Showtime conundrum has always been that I'm totally into their original series, but their movie selection is for shit, and with only one or two original series airing at a time, it never seems worth it to shell out the extra money. I mean, you read how much I loved United States of Tara, and if that couldn't get me to shell out for the channel ...
And yet, Nurse Jackie might do the trick, even though I'm not quite as wild about it as I am about Tara. But with these two shows, plus Weeds plus The Tudors (... plus Big Brother After Dark what?) might be the critical mass I'm looking for. Or I may just obtain episodes via "alternative methods."
ANYWAY, onto Nurse Jackie, a show I ended up liking WAY more than I thought I would at the five-minute mark. What held me back in the early-going was my fear that Falco's Jackie Peyton -- who was introduced lying numb and near-catatonic in a vicodin haze -- was both derivative (of House most especially) and also featuring yet another unengaged female lead about to take us on a bleak tour of the human condition. Look, I love Weeds, but watching Nancy Botwin become increasingly uninterested in anything but making the worst possible choice and ceding her own decisions to the nearest drug kingpin has been incredibly depressing, and I wasn't all that psyched about signing on for that with Nancy's new time-slot companion.
Much to my relief, however, the ensuing 25 minutes allayed those fears for the most part. Jackie's a terrifically complex character -- yes, she appears to be hooked on vicodin and oxy and whatever else she can get her hands on to numb her emotional AND physical pain, but she actually couldn't be more engaged with her surroundings. She's gruff but warm with a rookie nurse (Merritt Weaver, who I enjoyed in her brief appearances on Studio 60), she has great in-the-trenches friendships, a desperate in-house love affair, an impossibly adorable family at home ... who, yes, she's cheating on, but it's the fact that she really seems to care about her husband and kids that makes me think she's not just another checked-out asshole. Moreover, she seems to live and die with her patients. I am more than willing to follow a woman like this through her personal demons and deficiencies of character.
Plus, much to my surprise, the Nurse Jackie cast is an absolute dream: Edie Falco is the rare case where the hype is justified, and she kept me interested in The Sopranos long past the point where I'd stopped liking anyone (including Carmela); I've always had a soft spot for Peter Facinelli (though his character's quirkiness really needs to be better fleshed out in future episodes); Haaz Sleiman (The Visitor) made an immediate (and handsome) impact as Jackie's gay nurse friend; and by god, we even get Anna Deveare Smith (!) as a hospital administrator, and I am just hoping to god the role isn't quite as thankless as it seems.
It's not a perfect show, but it's perfectly promising, and if it goes to the places it's capable of going, Showtime might just have something of a holy trinity of female-centered half-hour comedic dramas that rock my face off. Showtime, seriously, get me some screeners, I will totally hook you up.