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Featured TV on DVD Review: Nurse Jackie: Season One

February 22nd, 2010

Nurse Jackie: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Nurse Jackie stars Edie Falco, whose previous TV shows include Oz and The Sopranos, both of which were shows that won numerous awards. (Actually, I was pissed when she left Oz for The Sopranos, as I like the former better than the latter.) Already, Edie Falco has earned three nominations for her performance in this show, while the show itself was nominated for Best New Series at the WGA. Because of this, I had high expectations for the show. On the other hand, it's a half-hour 'dramedy', which is quite different than what we've seen from her in the past.

Edie Falco is Nurse Jackie, a veteran nurse at the All Saints Hospital in Lower Manhattan. She's great at her job, but hates dealing with over-cocky doctors (Dr. Fitch Cooper), interfering administrators (Gloria Akalitus), and chirpy nursing students (Zoey). She does have some things that help her make it through the day. There's her best friend and stylish doctor, Dr. Eleanor O'Hara, her fellow nurses (chiefly Mohammed 'Mo-Mo' De La Cruz), and the hospital's pharmacist, Eddie Walzer, with whom she's having an affair. Oh yeah, and then there's the drugs. She's addicted to prescription painkillers that she gets from Eddie under the table.

She does have one other secret, and this is a major spoiler for those that haven't seen the first episode and there's just no way to discuss the TV series without talking about it, so if you want to remain spoiler free, skip the next part.

Her other secret: she's married and has two kids. At the beginning of the season, the only person that knows about her family is Dr. Eleanor O'Hara, but you get a sense pretty early on that that's not going to be the case at the end. Home life is mostly good. However, pulling 80-hour workweeks has had some negative consequences. For instance, her elder daughter, Gracie, is dealing with a lot of anxiety, which is a major thread in the plot for the season. (On a side note, I don't see why they don't ask Gracie why she uses muted colors and why she doesn't draw suns in her pictures. And sending her to a Catholic private school to deal with her anxiety? That's nuts.) Much of the first season deals with the tension between her work life, family life, and worsening addiction, but the supporting cast also have some important storylines. (The one where Akalitus finds the baby reminded me of The Venture Brothers. "SOMEBODY LEFT A BABY! IGNORE ME!")

On a side note, I loved the two episodes with Victor Garber. The film critic and his character defended the profession well. And to answer Zoey's question, I think cats are not used in films as much as dogs because they are much harder to train.

On a final note, does anyone else think Ruby Jerins, the young actress that plays Grace, looks like Emily Osment?

Here endth the spoilers.

The first episode was a rough going early on, mainly because they had so much to set up. When you are introducing half-a-dozen main characters in just 30 minutes, there's not much chance to give them fully fleshed out personalities. Many are reduced to simple stereotypes. But this problem is fixed over the course of the 12-episode season as we learn more and more about each character. The balance between humor and drama tilts heavily towards the drama end of the scale, and the humor that is there tends to be dark, which might turn off some people. Personally, I would call it a 30-minute drama with some humorous moments. As long as you know that going in, the show should win you over. The acting is excellent, as is the writing, and I look forward to season two, which starts March 22nd.

Extras on the DVD include audio commentary tracks on four episodes with Edie Falco, Linda Wallem, Liz Brixus, and Richie Jackson (the star, two writers, and a producer). They've got good energy and plenty of information. There are also two featurettes on disc one, starting with All About Edie which is about Edie Falco's return to TV. Unsung Heroes is about the nursing profession. On disc two there is an 11-minute "making-of" featurette with the cast and crew talking about making of the series, while there are a handful of stories told by real world nurses.

I don't have the Blu-ray; however, there appears to be no exclusives. That said, it only costs $3 more (about 12.5% more) and that is a fantastic price.

The Verdict

Nurse Jackie is not quite as good as Dexter, but that's the only show on Showtime right now that is better than Nurse Jackie. (Granted, I was never a fan of The Tudors or Californication. Weeds has jumped the shark.) The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray are much better than most Showtime releases, while the latter is the better deal. Definitely worth picking up.

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