Lionsgate Films | 2009 | 335 mins. | Not rated

I’ve been a big fan of the medical drama for as long as I can remember. The first one I remember watching week in, and week out, was the last couple seasons of St. Elsewhere. However, it was really the 1994 premiere of ER that changed the medical show genre forever. Due to the series massive success, all of the networks have attempted to recreate lighting in a bottle with mixed results. Some follow-ups have developed a loyal following (Grey’s Anatomy), while others have quickly gotten the ax (Trauma). Showtime has come to the table with its own medical drama, Nurse Jackie starring Edie Falco (The Soprano’s) in the title role.

Nurse Jackie - Season OneFreed from the constraints of conservative corporate sponsors and the watchful eye of the Federal Communications Commission, the writers are free to explore all most every angle they could want. I was trying to come up with a succinct way to describe Nurse Jackie, and kept coming back to this: ER on amphetamines. Just moments into the pilot, it’s clear this is a well written show. We know Jackie Payton is a conflicted complicated woman. As lead emergency room nurse at New York’s All Saints Hospital, Jackie is an unquestionably caring and dedicated individual. However, she’s not above breaching medical ethics for what she believes is the greater good—forging an organ donor card when a bike messenger dies.

She also engages in on-the-clock sexual activities with her boyfriend pharmacist (Paul Schultze), and in turn receives narcotic medication for her “back problems”, but those actions could simply be her coping mechanism for dealing with incompetent doctors and demanding patients. It’s only at the end of the first episode that we learn Jackie is also the wife of a dedicated husband (Dominic Fumusa), and the loving mother of two young daughters (Ruby Jerins and Daisy Tahan). Preferring to keep her work life separate from her home life, she allows only one friendship to exist within both realities under the assumption her indiscretions will remain a well-kept secret; All Saints emergency room Dr. Eleanor O’Hara (Eve Best), a woman who suffers from her own personality flaws. On the outside, Jackie seems to have everything together, but hidden within her tough exterior is a woman one Vicodin away from major disaster.

I found the recurring use of religious imagery rather interesting. Occasionally, there are shots of the hospitals corridor, somehow lit like a Renaissance painting of the Annunciation. Is the idea to see Jackie as some sort of flawed Saint? In the midst of all her pill popping she always does something commendable. Does that somehow absolve her of her sins? Just some thoughts…

After watching Nurse Jackie: Season One, I’m even more convinced that Edie Falco is one of the finest actresses working today. She inhabits Jackie Payton as seamlessly as she did Carmela Soprano. One could argue that because she is the overwhelming focus, and this is a dark comedy, the task is all that much harder. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the role of Jackie and pulling off the emotional rollercoaster with such ease. Whether she’s starting a fight with a school nurse, training a newbie, or giving advice to her co-worker “Mo-Mo” (a homosexual male nurse), Falco is in total control. Aside from the quality of the acting, the writing is first rate. It’s hard not to appreciate the clever use of dialogue (often laced with profanity), and the use of well-placed narration to get inside Jackie’s head. Some of her lines are extremely profound, and enhance the experience (the end of the pilot episode is a good example). Whether you love to hate Jackie or vice versa, the series is well worth watching.

Nurse Jackie has bright colors and a good amount of detail for a DVD. It’s presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and “enhanced” for 16×9 televisions.

The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mostly delivering dialogue and music. Solid stuff. Subtitle options are in English and Spanish.

Nurse Jackie: Season One
offers the following special features:

Audio Commentaries with Edie Falco (Jackie Peyton), Linda Wallem (writer/executive producer), Liz Brixius (writer/executive producer) & Ritchie Jackson (co-executive producer): The commentary tracks are available on four episodes (Pilot, Tiny Bubbles, Ring Finger, and Health Care & Cinema), and focus on the actors in the film. Several tidbits regarding the production are included, but the featured voices spend a good deal of time joking around and making sarcastic comments with one another.
All About Edie (5:26) Consisting of interviews with actors, writers, and producers, this focuses on Edie Falco’s involvement in the series, and the nuances of her character.
Unsung Heroes (5:32) This focuses on the nursing occupation, and manner in which the creators pay tribute to the profession.
Prepping Nurse Jackie (10:55) The interviews in prior segments continue with a focus on the themes of the series and why everyone felt it would become a huge hit.
Nurse Stories (6:58) A collection of colorful stories from real-life nurses.

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