Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nurse Jackie: A New Jewel Appears in My All-Time Favorites Crown!

Nurse Jackie is my new favorite show. She has also become one of my All Time Favoritest TV Characters With Whom I Secretly Identify - right up there with Emily Gilmore, Barnabas Collins and Gregory House.

It's just one of Those Shows, and she's just one of Those Characters, that come along only once in a great while - a kind of TV Love at first sight.

Within minutes, even seconds, you just Know.

It shoots right up there into that rare stratosphere of favoriteness where watching re-runs is like re-reading a beloved book, a show that, if you could afford an external hard drive, you would save every episode just so you could watch them whenever you wanted to, and you keep them on your hard drive until you are so absurdly low on space that you are faced with the impossible task of deciding which episodes you absolutely cannot be without.

I've always suspected that the first utterance of that old saying about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts was inspired by an ensemble cast.

It's something that the shows we love the most tend to have in common, and usually what happens is we get to watch the actors' journey, watch them feel and fumble their way to that Golden Ideal.

Nurse Jackie viewers get to witness an even rarer phenomenon - the magic of an instant ensemblization - they just sort of miraculously click themselves into a whole greater than the sum - and do so at least to our eyes - effortlessly.

With the exception of Jackie herself, the other characters, whether taken separately or as a boxed set, are pretty much predictable, standard issue, stock supporting roles, but set into orbit around the sun of Jackie, something cosmic happens.

We'll probably never know an exact percentage credit breakdown for the character of Jackie as we see her - how much of her was first committed to paper by Liz Brixius, how much of her is fleshed out and layered and nuanced by the fabulous Miss Edie Falco, but the result is genius enough to qualify for yet another Miracle Ensemblization Award - another whole that exponentially exceeds the sum of its parts!

Independent of cultural context, and I will dare to predict, historical period, Jackie is first and foremost a kind of SuperMarySue. Through her, we are able to do all kinds of things that we wish we could do, that we would do if we had the opportunity.

Jackie lets us imagine being the person sitting there with the organ donor card in front of us, and no one paying us the slightest bit of attention, through her we can enjoy the wish-fulfillment of getting to slip the wad of cash into the bag of the sleeping single mother, packing up a big bag of medicine for the little girl with the sick mom whose "insurance is shit."

This is not to cast the show in the role of some kind of aid for mental health through vicarious living.

Jackie's choices are by no means always the ones I would make - like yanking the catheter out of the alleged pedophile - or using physical intimacy with a co-worker as a strategy for managing the gargantuan stress-load of job and personal health issues under which she somehow manages not only to function, but excel.

The show is first and foremost just plain old good entertainment, and does a great job of maintaining the right mix of comedy, pathos, and drama. Dialogue is simple but snappy, and story arcs are meaty enough to intrigue but simple and universal enough to be "accessible" to a wide audience.

Granted, my perception is that of a viewer who loves the show and has bestowed upon it - and Jackie - a place in my personal All Time Favorite Hall of Fame.

No TV program is going to be for absolutely everybody, but the good news for critics of the show and particularly of the Jackie character, is that today, what we used to call "the airwaves" are populated with such a wide variety of programming that there is something for everyone.

People who don't like Nurse Jackie simply need to watch a different show!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You gave very good advice regarding those of us who do not like Nurse Jackie. I think the show is absolute trash, and I abhor the Character Nurse Jackie. She cheats on her idiot husband, and will continue to do so to get the drugs she craves. She is arrogant, abrasive and even crass.


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