The second season of Nurse Jackie demonstrates quite how wonderful and under-rated this show is. Edie Falco was consistently one of the best things about The Sopranos over its six season tenure and so a starring TV vehicle for the actress was warmly welcomed when Nurse Jackie premiered in 2009.
Jackie is a nurse in a public hospital in New York and is typically rushed off her feet and paid a pittance. Cynical towards colleagues and family members alike, Jackie is also a user, having developed a dependency to painkillers following a back injury and her addiction shows no sign of abating with her dealer OD’ing resulting in a dearth of Jackie’s little helper in the first episode of this second season.
Whilst the show could easily be dismissed as a female version of House (though blissfully the procedural side of the hospital is kept in the background), there is a true heart of darkness at the centre of the piece. A lot of this stems from Jackie herself, since the writers seem intent to push her to the very boundaries of both her sanity and her personal health, yet her very job revolves around assisting people in similar situations to herself. This contradiction is typified by the DVD sleeve art for Season 2, which portrays her as a type of Mary Magdalene character (with obvious flaws surrounding her). The show has certainly made little friends in the nursing fraternity, with Jackie’s unethical behaviour consistently having to be described as “not in line with the nursing code of ethics” in the US press.
Sure, there are some issues – the perfect husband Kevin, who looks about 15 years Falco’s junior (even though they were allegedly high-school sweethearts), a carbon reversal of the same relationship in Breaking Bad, is a shameful piece of casting; studio executives were presumably aghast when it was suggested that the show would feature two 40-year-old married characters. Similarly the co-workers are a little stock in their character breakdowns, with the gay confidante Mo-Mo, the ditzy new blood Chloe and the bling-obsessed Brit Dr O’Hara at times seeming a little too forced.
The show is certainly keen to wear its modern credentials very much on its sleeve, with doctors taking to Twitter in order to vent about their patients and children being exposed to drug abuse in storylines presumably ripped from headlines and true-life accounts of their hospital counterparts. Fortunately, Nurse Jackie (the show and the woman) has a great sense of humour and will always make you laugh as often as it makes you think.
Released on DVD on Monday 18th April 2011 by Lions Gate Home Entertainment.