Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nurse Jackie

     Normally I come up with witty, catchy titles for my ever-compelling blog posts. I enjoy a good cliche slash catch-phrase to reel in the best of the literary folks. It gives me an odd sense of satisfaction to know that I've successfully drawn the attention of the blogosphere with the crafty manner in which I've arranged words. Today, though, I am making an exception; please see above uncharacteristically straight-forward post title. Why am I doing this, you might ask. The answer is a simple one: when something is inherently good, it needs no finessing. If my words are not enough to convey the high caliber of the show at hand, though, allow the following fact to do so. Within the time span of under one week, I successfully managed to watch every episode of Nurse Jackie from 2009 to present. To be clear here, that is four seasons in their entirety, equating to 48 thirty-minute episodes. For a girl who touts herself as a non-TV consumer, that's a hefty amount of hours in front of the tube. But not without good reason. Nurse Jackie could possibly be the most solid dramedy I have seen. Ever.
   As a preface, I was never much of a hospital / doctor show fan; neither ER nor Grey's had the allure to keep me tuning in week after week. The characters quickly grew stale and the plots predictable. I could only tolerate so many gunshot wounds and aneurysms in a thirty minute span. But those network shows did not and do not hold a flame, not even a spark, to Showtime's Nurse Jackie. For very important starters, Edie Falco is literal brilliance incarnate in this role. Her portrayal of Jackie Peyton, the drug-addicted, brash ER "trauma queen", is nothing short of mesmerizing.  Okay so yes, needless to say, when the Nielsen measured population at large hears the name Edie Falco, only one thing comes to mind: the Jers-a-rific Sopranos. Falco's role in the 2000's era mafia-saga as Carmela Soprano was hysterically fantastic, and no doubt served as her entry into the hearts of premium-cable-viewing America. I, like the best of us, loved me some Tony and Carmela. I must say, however, from a pure character-evaluation standpoint, that Falco's role as Jackie earns just a little bit more admiration from me than that of Carmela.
     Perhaps the most alluring element of Falco's Jackie is her consistent, unwaivering believability. Jackie has such an abundance of flaws in her life that there are few, if any, other actresses who I fancy would be able to play the role with any rivaling semblance of plausibility. Falco embodies the dichotomous qualities of a cheating wife, a struggling mother of two, a talented nurse, and an addict...all wrapped into the neat confines of clean blue scrubs.  And she does it with ease and smooth grace. While Falco's Jackie is in the throes of her addiction to prescription pain-killers while simultaneously attempting to balance a life of lies, her desperation seeps through the TV into our hearts. Her fragility is tangible; we sense that, at any given moment, the thin shell of lies in which she has encapsulated herself is going to crack. And then there she will be...a lying, cheating, drug-addicted woman on the edge. From the start of season two, we watch and wait for her to crumble. When she finally does, the brilliance of Falco's character portrayal morphs from alluring to utterly spell-binding.
     Falco adeptly takes Jackie from a closed, bitingly bitter bitch at the show's inception to a raw, struggling-to-stay-sober-after-rehab-I-forgot-what-it-is-to-have-feelings soul from the sophomore season onward. It is a stunning metamorphosis that could only be demonstrated by a former addict herself. Likely little known to the public at large but quite essential indeed, Edie Falco has nearly twenty years of sobriety under her belt...and a less-than-sober past that is the clear basis for her spot-on performance as the addicted-then-rehabbed Jackie. She struggled with alcohol and drugs and if I did not know I was watching premium cable, I could swear I was witnessing a Discovery Channel documentary on the unstable past of a fallen Hollywood angel.
     I'm fairly certain that my stance on Nurse Jackie as a show as well as on Falco's acting creds, is clear at this point. The viewing experience is raw, real, and unmatched from anything I have seen to date. It makes even the most sober of us feel the pain of desperation, addiction, and ultimately, recovery. Two days after finishing the four-season series, the void in my life is tangible. My countdown has now officially commenced for the start of Season 5...and the re-entry of the unpredictable, alluring woman in blue.

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