thoughts on pop culture

Nurse Jackie Episode 1: Pilot

Thanks to an early preview on DirecTV’s 101 Network, I was able to watch the series premiere of Showtime’s latest half hour dramedy this weekend. Nurse Jackie stars Edie Falco as the title character, an emergency room nurse in a Catholic hospital in New York City.


If you don’t want the spoilers, but would like to know what I think of the show, skip to the last paragraph and you’ll be okay.


The episode opens with a bright white light and the sounds of a crazy ER, then fades into mellow elevator music as Falco begins a voiceover. The brightness fades as we see Jackie laying flat on the floor, just as the disembodied voice explains our heroine has a bad back. This leads us straight into the first reveal of her painkiller addiction, as she counts out 16 (always 16 she says) grains of Vicodin and snorts them cocaine-style through a straw. Why not pop pills like Dr. House? My younger brother tells me snorting the drug gets it into the bloodstream faster, thus a more immediate benefit.


Freshly medicated, Jackie heads to work to find a bruised and broken bike messenger waiting for attention. She examines him along with Dr. Cooper (Peter Facinelli) who ignores her advice to get a CT to rule out a brain bleed. Despite his recent fame as a Twilight cast member, Facinelli excels at playing cocky douchebags, and Cooper seems to be right up his alley. I won’t spoil the great exchange between the doctor and Jackie when she confronts him in the locker room, but the scene definitely shows us what the interaction between these two will be like.


Continuing with our introduction to the cast, Jackie’s peer Mo Mo (Haaz Sleiman), a gay male nurse, enters a scene just long enough to show us that Jackie isn’t the only sassy nurse on staff. He also takes the opportunity to dump Zoey (Merritt Wever), a student nurse, in Jackie’s lap, saying he got stuck with the previous three students. Zoey is an obvious contrast to Jackie, both in experience and attitude. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Jackie to break her down. Zoey’s intro is cut short by the appearance of Mrs. Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) who is apparently some kind of administrator, a la Lisa Cuddy. Jackie quickly blows her off and exits. This allows us to meet Eddie (Paul Schulze), the hospital pharmacist that Jackie is having sex with, which isn’t making her back any better. Although that’s nothing a second bump of Vicodin won’t fix.


Jackie and Zoey then find themselves attending to a badly cut-up hooker while the paramedics inform them that she was able to get her attacker’s knife and cut his ear off before he got away. Zoey promptly gets sick at the sight of the ear, and Jackie is ready for a break. Jackie goes to dinner with her friend Dr. O’Hara (Eve Best) and a very funny exchange takes place in the upscale restaurant where they are dining. After dinner, Jackie returns to treat a young stoner with third degree burns from shooting a Roman Candle out of his ass. After the exam, Jackie does bump number three before getting back to work.


The hooker’s assailant arrives for treatment and Jackie find out he won’t be charged because he is a diplomat and has immunity. Once she confirms what a giant asshole the guy is, Jackie takes the law into her own hands a dispenses a little frontier justice. I found myself wondering if this was something Jackie would have done if she hadn’t been flying on all that Vicodin.


At the end of a long day, Jackie heads home, but not before Eddie hooks her up with some more Vicodin and she turns down his offer of spending the evening together. I’m not going to spoil the big reveal at the end of the episode, but it certainly confirms that Jackie is not the saint that Zoey think she is.


I realize I made more than one comparison to House in my analysis of the Nurse Jackie’s premiere, and that wasn’t an accident. There are some vary obvious parallels between the two shows–both feature a deeply flawed protagonist who make up for their lack of social skills and nasty demeanor by being damn good at their job. Then there is the painkiller addiction. Jackie’s method of consumption is certainly edgier than House’s, but the result is the same, they both go through life in a medicated state that no one really understands the full effects of. I think the key difference between the two is that Jackie does understand she is not a role model, where House often holds himself up as the best example of someone in his profession. That difference is captured best in the prayer Jackie offers during the closing moments of the premiere, “Make me good God, but not yet.” That is the difference that will bring me back next week for episode two.


Nurse Jackie airs at 10:30/9:30c starting Monday, June 8th.


And yes, people actually stick Roman Candles in their asses.

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Comedy, Drama, New Series, Premiere, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Better YouTube Filter: Web Soup or Tosh.0?

Despite all the hours I spend on the computer each week, I do my best not to get sucked down the ultimate web time warp, YouTube.  Understand, I don’t think YouTube is stupid or pointless, I just know that intending to watch one video often ends two hours later with very little to show for it. Just pulling up a few of the clips that were mentioned this week almost led me down the rabbit hole. This has inspired my quest to find a filter to do this for me, leaving me with only the videos that are actually entertaining. Enter Web Soup and Tosh.0.

Web Soup (G4, Sundays 9/8c, premieres June 7th)  
From the creators of The Soup, this show features Chris Hardwick instead of Joel McHale, and is focused specifically on web video instead of Tyra Banks and Flavor Flav. Not surprisingly, the style of humor on the show is very similar to it’s mother-program. I’ve seen Hardwick on other shows, including a recent appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and he actually seems much less comfortable on his own show than he does as a guest on someone else’s program. Sure, it could have been pilot jitters, but that’s what the editing room is supposed to be used for. Hardwick notes on his blog that he is not trying to do a McHale impression, and I think that’s true. I take him at face value when he says he’s using the same style he’s had since his first tv gig at MTV in the 90’s. Those MTV/90’s comedy roots are evident. It seems to me that his delivery is a mix of Kurt Loder and Carson Daly, with a hint of Jerry Seinfeld. Frankly, I think loyal viewers of the original don’t need to watch Web Soup since McHale’s version already includes some pretty entertaining web video alongside the latest creepy shit Willard Scott has done. The best call was putting the show on a network other than E!, giving Web Soup a chance to capture a different demographic at G4. You can view the promo video here.

Tosh.0 (Comedy Central, Thursdays 10/9c, premiered June 4th)
Comedian Daniel Tosh is the host of this show, that seems to me like a mashup of The Daily Show and The Soup, but again rooted in web video.  Tosh’s style is a bit more unique than Hardwicke’s, although I’ll admit that could be because I had never seen him before the premiere episode aired. What I really enjoyed about Tosh.0 were the differences in delivery, even on the first episode. Instead of “clip, joke, clip, joke, repeat”, Tosh mixes in an interview with the Afro Ninja as well as his own attempt to complete some of the web’s funniest challenges. It seems the later time slot also allows Tosh to be edgier with his jokes, which appeals to me as well. The Afro Ninja spot is available on the website if you missed it. 

I’m sure it’s no surprised based on my comments that I have decided to keep Tosh.0 on my DVR playlist and drop Web Soup. Ultimately, I think each person’s choice will depend on which host appeals best to their sense of humor.

Afro Ninja

Cinnamon Challenge

June 7, 2009 Posted by | New Series, Premiere, Reality, Technology, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment