31 Pilots in 31 Days: Nurse Jackie

When it was originally on: 2009-2015

Original network: Showtime

Where you can stream it now: It’s available for VOD, but not any flat-rate streaming services. No, not even Showtime. I was surprised too.

Had I seen it before: No.

What IMDb says: A drug-addicted nurse struggles to find a balance between the demands of her frenetic job at a New York City hospital and an array of personal dramas.

Why I picked it: I didn’t want HBO to make up 100% of my premium cable slots, and Nurse Jackie seemed to be the biggest comedy Showtime had to offer that I hadn’t already covered. (Yes, there is a Shameless review already).

I also love when people do comedic takes on the the traditional stomping grounds of TV dramas: cops, doctors, or lawyers. Nurse Jackie is a premium cable spin on the hospital show, a domain that has been Network TV’s bread and butter for decades. This also came right at the the golden age of the tv anti-hero was coming into its own, and so the idea of making a female nurse an anti-hero seems like just the right mix of classic tv tradition and modern sensibility.

What I liked: Jackie is an interesting character that’s just the right mix of flawed, relatable, and admirable. We get to see her passion for the patients, and how it turns into fury when doctors don’t take her input seriously. We see how she has a drug addiction… but mostly just to deal with a bad back so she can continue doing the 80-hour weeks this job asks of her. We find out she’s having an affair with a doctor (or maybe pharmacist?) and it’s not until the very end that we learn she’s actually married to some other dude, and takes her ring off at work.

I also love how they set up a doctor/nurse best friend relationship between Jackie and a doctor. The whole doctors-undervaluing-nurses schtick is fairly common in most medical shows I’ve seen, so it’s actually quite refreshing to see a doctor and a nurse that seem to be better friends with each other than anyone else in the hospital. I also love Dr. O’Hara’s line about how Jackie is a nurse because she’s passionate about healing patients, where as she’s a doctor because when she was a child, she cut open a dead rabbit because she was curious to see the inside. I think this notion that doctors don’t necessarily become doctors because they’re invested in healing people is a rather profound one, and I imagine it’ll inform doctor-nurse relations in the show moving forward.

What I didn’t like: I wish I had a better grip on what to expect from future episodes. This wasn’t quite a case-of-the-week medical procedural, but I can’t say I’m super intrigued by any of the ongoing plot lines that are introduced here either. I mean… she has a family and is cheating on her husband, but at the same time, we don’t really have any reason to believe the husband could find out anytime soon. If this isn’t going to be a case-of-the-week show, I want to be able to envision how conflicts will get more interesting, how shit might hit the fan, and here, I’m drawing a blank.

I could see this as a show that eventually blossoms into more, particularly as it has time to develop more of the supporting characters, but right now it’s almost too character driven, to the point of me not knowing what actual story is happening. There’s conflict, sure, but no conflict where I’m genuinely excited to see what happens next.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Not particularly no.


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