TV review: Nurse Jackie

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Yes, Edie Falco won last fall's Best Actress in a Comedy Emmy for her role on "Nurse Jackie" - but she still remains the series' biggest problem.

Much like William H. Macy's Frank Gallagher on "Shameless," Jackie is a wholly unlikable addict. And she's even more central to her show's narrative development.

It's hard to root for or feel empathy for these characters - not because of their addiction, but because they're completely unrepentant about it.

Yes, television is full of antiheroes who behave terribly. Don Draper from "Mad Men" is a womanizer and an A-hole. Walter White on "Breaking Bad" is a meth dealer and a murderer. Nancy Botwin on "Weeds" is a bad mother (and drug dealer) who puts her family in danger again and again.

The difference is that those characters have had the kind of grand moments of redemption we've yet to see from Jackie.

In the closing moments of Season 2, Jackie's pill-popping ways were discovered by her husband, Kevin (Dominic Fumusa), and best friend, Dr. O'Hara (Eve Best). But rather than having a moment of clarity, she laughed it off irritably.

This season finds Jackie more defiant, deceitful and forceful where she should be apologetic and seeking help. She's still a liar and pill fiend, just more determined.

But enough about Jackie. The best reason to watch this show - which, despite dark themes, is a comedy - is some hilarious work from the supporting cast.

When we're not dealing with Jackie's downer life, we're treated to some excellent workplace comedy. It's not "Parks and Recreation" quality, but Jackie's hospital cohorts can, at times, be as silly and as outlandishly funny.

Nurse Zoey (Merritt Wever) is an absolute pleasure and a stockpile of quirky laughs. She'll non-swear with "clusterfudge" one moment, then tell a co-worker about her boyfriend's sexual tendencies the next.

The other (surprisingly) great comedian here is Peter Facinelli as Dr. Cooper. Coop's self-absorbed superficiality is weirdly likable, mostly because his low self-esteem also shines through.

And the writers have improved hospital administrator Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith), giving her character more depth and less slapstick. She's become a funnier boss than Michael Scott.

If the writers could just swap some of Jackie's constant judgmental hypocrisy for some humility, this could be one of the best comedies out there.

"Nurse Jackie"

Premieres 10 p.m. Monday, March 28, on Showtime

2.5 stars