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Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) works hard as a nurse at All Saints' Hospital in New York City. Jackie’s acquaintances and co-workers include the saucy and supportive ‘Mo-Mo’ de la Cruz (Haaz Sleiman), the sweet and eager to please Zoey Barkow (Merritt Wever), the self-centered and knowing Dr. Elenor O'Hara (Eve Best), and the goofy and young Dr. Fitch Cooper (Peter Facinelli). Jackie is the heart of the emergency room staff however, even if her methods are not always the most orthodox. It’s a hard life, and sometimes she requires a pick-me-up or two (usually of the narcotic variety) to continue her saintly ways. This leads to a drug habit, which leads to a romantic relationship with the hospital pharmacist Eddie Walzer (Paul Schulze). What Eddie, and the rest of the All Saints’ staff doesn’t know, however, is that outside of work Jackie lives the secret life of an everyday wife and mother. These two lives tend to clash.

Nurse Jackie: Season One
I admit that I wasn’t ready to fall in love with another troubled middle-aged woman with a naughty streak, or another oddball hospital staff, but Nurse Jackie is really freaking hard to resist. Against my best interests and intensions I might even have to say that with only 13 episodes Nurse Jackie might be my new favourite hospital show, and though the subject manner doesn’t quite charm me on a high concept level like Dexter or Weeds (few things can), but it has stories to tell and characters that charm within a few minutes of meeting them. The show has its shortcomings, and most of them pertain to the over-arcing themes and plots, which are pretty usual for decades of American television. The characters are so likeable and well-rounded enough that their trope fulfillment is far from obnoxious, and their goofy little lives are more than simply tolerable – they’re engaging. Well, 90% of the time. The drama doesn’t always engage, but when it does it comes from a natural and understandable place, and is genuinely affecting.

The writing is best when its sticking to the things that work unlike any other show, specifically Jackie dispensing advice to the people that need it the most. When the story stops to dump on her (as any good adult aimed television serial will do) it loses a few points for acting so much like everything else, and grows a little frustrating from a character standpoint, but without these bumps in the road Jackie would turn into some kind of Touched by an Angel stereotype. I could do with more surprises in the forward momentum of the overall story, but the standalone elements here are smart, and delve head first into some difficult and familiar emotional places. The writers are also clever to deal in matters other than amazing medical mysteries, heavy gore shocks, or too much inter-hospital romance, at least not in unrealistic terms. The stronger element is the comedy, which features the most original writing voice, quite different from the long-running stylings of Scrubs, which will probably define hospital comedy for a long time. I hazard to say I actually got more belly laughs out of Nurse Jackie.

Nurse Jackie: Season One

Video


Nurse Jackie is a lot grainier than similar Showtime series, like Weeds, which is soft, or Dexter, which is a higher contrast celebration of darks and Miami brights. The digital grain isn’t so much a problem, and actually separates the show from stuff like Scrubs or Grey’s Anatomy, but its certainly there. In terms of colour and lighting design the show is similar enough to those other hospital shows, utilizing the natural bright fluorescents of the hospital to do a lot of the work, while highlighting the events with candy-coated bits, especially outside the hospital. Assuming the grain doesn’t bother you, and really, it’s not that bad, you’re in for some fine details, all sharpened without any major edge-enhancement or artefacting. The transfer isn’t on par with stuff like Lost in terms of deep-set, consistent details, but is comparatively more impressive than Grey’s Anatomy. The scientific-like, super close-up details (usually drug related and presented in slow motion) are just as perfect as those that come with science documentaries, and definitely a highlight. The colours, and the black and white elements of the hospital are solidly separated, but the outdoor day scenes tend to bleed blue into the white elements, while the outer-hospital interiors get a little over-oranged. Both appear to be purposeful.

Nurse Jackie: Season One

Audio


Nurse Jackie doesn’t feature any car chases, shoot-outs, smoke monsters or explosions, so the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track isn’t quite filled to the brim with expressive aural elements. There are plenty of layered elements, mostly pertaining to the general buzz of the hospital, but most of them are allocated to the center channel, where they fit nicely and naturally. The stereo channels get in on the hospital action from time to time, usually in a person movement capacity, or in the form of beeping machinery. The rear channels are very rarely bumped into the mix, usually during outdoor scenes, or in the vacuum of the hospital’s chapel. Directional effects are practically a non-entity. The dialogue and centered basic effects sound very good, very clear, and consistently natural, and that’s what’s important. There isn’t a lot of music per episode, usually only at the top and bottom, but what little there is warms the stereo channels, and gives the LFE a full-bodied rumble.

Nurse Jackie: Season One

Extras


Showtime consistently disappoints with their Paramount released Dexter discs, but between this collection and the various Weeds collections they continue to please with their Lionsgate releases. The extras here start with a series of audio commentaries. Disc one commentaries start with the pilot, which features actress Edie Falco, writer/producer Linda Wallem, writer Liz Brixius and producer Richie Jackson. The tone is a bit scatterbrained, and the content is definitely lacking, but it’s not a total lost because the participants are so entertaining. Things definitely pick up once the participants get the hang of it. The same participants are also heard on ‘Tiny Bubbles’, which was clearly recorded pretty quickly in succession after the previous track. The crew is on more of a roll here, but still more fun than informative. The hits continue on disc two with ‘Ring Finger’ and ‘Health Care and Cinema’, both also featuring the same participants. The talk does continue to revolve around food, but also continues to be fun, and continues to run past the credits.

Other disc one extras start with ‘All About Edie’ (5:30, HD), a look at the facts of developing a series around actress Edie Falco. Mostly this pertains to the cast and crew loving on her performances. ‘Unsung Heroes’ (5:30, HD) finishes the disc off with a brief look at the truth of real life nurses. It’s fluffy, but a genuinely affecting little featurette, especially to those of us that have experienced the value of a great nurse. Disc two’s other extras start with ‘Prepping Nurse Jackie’ (11:00, HD). This featurette is really just another series of cast and crew interviews that praise every aspect of the show. It feels more like a between movie Showtime ad, though I did learn that Steve Buscemi directed four episodes. This is followed by five ‘Nurse Stories’ (6:30, SD), a series of real life nurse stories used to advertise the series, including that of a bossy two year old, two office romances, a masturbation tale, and a gross testicle related story.

Nurse Jackie: Season One

Overall


Man I really didn’t want to like Nurse Jackie. I have enough television shows that I can’t watch without buying cable already, and I’m certainly done with hospital drama and comedy. I couldn’t resist. The writing isn’t totally consistent, and a few trailing plotlines fall off without going anywhere, but the acting and characters are so perfect and endearing. And unlike Dexter[/h], [i]Venture Bros.[i] or [i]Mad Men I feel like I can recommend the show to everyone, not just those that can take the violence, get the in-jokes, or stomach the tempo. Fans should know that the heavy grain present in the source material and lack of surround sound intensity doesn’t make the Blu-ray version a must buy. You can get away with the DVD release just fine if you want to save a couple of bucks.


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