Thursday, June 4, 2009

Nurse Jackie: Vital Signs Positive

Nurse Jackie on Showtime

On Tuesday night here in New York City, Showtime rolled out its newest comedy series, Nurse Jackie.  Edie Falco, in her first regular series role since her career-making portrayal of mob wife Carmela Soprano, stars as Queens native Jackie Peyton, a married mother of two who pops pain pills to soothe her back and shtups her coworker doctor (played by her recurring Sopranos co-star Paul Schulze, aka Father Phil Intintola), all to get her through the rough days at Manhattan's All Saints Hospital.

Okay, so Jackie may have her flaws.  And it's quite possible -- and I already heard from one nurse who called in to The Frank DeCaro Show on Sirius OutQ yesterday -- that there may be some in the medical profession who balk at this portrayal, and at some of the unorthodox and yes, even illegal, things we see Jackie do.  But the heart of the show -- and some of its darkest, most hilarious moments -- comes from Jackie's machinations to make The System work, to save lives even if it means completely breaking the rules.   (And by the way -- the show does employ several actual RNs as consultants, to keep things real.)

Produced by a highly pedigreed team that includes creators Linda Wallem (Cybill, That '70s Show) and Liz Brixius, Sex and the City alum John Melfi and a rotating group of highly esteemed directors like Falco's Sopranos costar Steve Buscemi,  Nurse Jackie had a lot going for it right from the start.  No wonder Showtime was able to lure Falco right back to TV.  As the actress told me a few weeks ago, in an interview for an upcoming piece in the July/August issue of CBS Watch Magazine, she spent her post-Carmela time reading scripts in all different genres -- plays, screenplays, TV scripts.  "As far as something that I was going to be interested in doing, and be challenged by, the options were few," she explained.  "I've gotten very picking, because the writing was so good on Sopranos that it's hard to compare... Nurse Jackie was the first thing that really grabbed me."  And it's a testament to Falco's immense talent that, moments into Nurse Jackie's pilot episode, you forget that such a looming pop cultural icon like Carmela Soprano ever existed.

Nurse Jackie grabbed me, too, in its first two episodes which Showtime screened on Tuesday night.  The network, its CEO Matt Blank noted in a funny introduction at the Directors Guild Theater, is already the socially responsible home to a pot-dealing suburban mom on Weeds, a serial-killer forensics expert on Dexter, and now a pill-popping nurse.  In the crowd, I spotted Buscemi and Schulze as well as Jackie co-stars Eve Best, Peter Facinelli, Anna Deavere Smith, Haaz Sleiman, Dominic Fumusa and Merritt Wever and guest stars Eli Wallach and Swoosie Kurtz, Falco's former Sopranos costar Aida Turturro, Bobby Cannavale, Julianna Margulies, LL Cool J, Donna Karan, Caroline Rhea, Richard Kind, Daphne Rubin-Vega, BD Wong, CBS News' Bob Simon, and later, at the jam-packed after party at the Parker Meridien hotel, Andrea Martin and Tovah Feldshuh, who stopped by after their respective Broadway shows.

Check out Nurse Jackie starting this Monday, June 8 at 10:30 PM Eastern/Pacific.

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