So, after six seasons on the brilliant Sopranos playing the put-upon but tough and resourceful wife of a mob boss, Falco moves on to playing a put-upon but tough and resourceful nurse. Both shows air on US cable TV networks, and both characters are extremely complex – but that's where the similarities end.
The Sopranos aired on HBO, which seems to be going through a bit of a fallow period after many, many years of hit show after hit show. Nurse Jackie is on Showtime, which also has the brilliant Dexter, Weeds and Californication. Now we can add Nurse Jackie – which the Independent newspaper called “Scrubs with The Wire injected into its veins” – to that roster of excellence.
Jackie Peyton (Falco) is a sharp-tongued and quick-witted veteran nurse at a New York City hospital. She has a heart of gold, works incredibly long hours and is willing to do whatever it takes. Falling under the category of "whatever it takes" are such activities as pill-popping (she's addicted to pain meds because of a back injury), signature forging, making decisions well beyond her rank and other less-than-ethical activities. She's also living two lives: happily-married mum of two, and single nurse having lunch-hour sex with a co-worker (the hospital pharmacist, who keeps her supplied with drugs). And it's an ongoing juggling act to keep those two worlds apart.
Our TV schedules have always been full of medical shows – from the Doctor Kildare and Marcus Welby MD, through Chicago Hope and ER, to the recent Scrubs and Greys Anatomy – but Nurse Jackie is the freshest I've seen in a long time. It's as sharp as a scalpel and funnier than a haemorrhoid. Like The Sopranos, it's a drama with laughs rather than a comedy. And just as in The Sopranos, Falco shows what a superbly talented actor she is (and how short hair can make her look 10 years younger). She's engaging and likeable, although she doesn't always give us reasons to like her character. Unfortunately, Jackie is also the best-written character in the show; some of the supporting players are a little underwritten, which I hope will be rectified in Season 2. But as it is, Nurse Jackie: Season 1 is one of the best TV debuts in a very long time.
EXTRAS *** Many TV shows get released to DVD with absolutely no extras (whcich makes me wonder why people buy them). But thankfuly, that's not the case with Nurse Jackie. There are cast and crew commentaries on several episodes (Pilot, Tiny Bubbles, Ring Finger, and Health Care & Cinema), and four behind-the-scenes featurettes: All ABout Edie; Unsung Heroes; Prepping Nurse Jackie; Nurse Stories. Good stuff.