Suddenly TV is nuts about nurses. HawthoRNe had its debut on TNT last night, and Showtime's Nurse Jackie has been available online for awhile. Still to come is Mercy, NBC's very own nurse show, which will begin in the spring. Who will win the battle of the nurses?
The obvious frontrunner is Nurse Jackie, which might not be a true competitor to the others because it runs on pay-to-watch Showtime. Still, it's got legs with Edie Falco, who spent six years as Carmela Soprano, wife to two-faced mob boss Tony on HBO's The Sopranos. On Nurse Jackie Falco leads another kind of double life as the title character, a brutally honest, over-worked nurse with a drug problem and an affair on the side. From the looks of the pilot, Falco is up to the challenge.
HawthoRNe, starring Jada Pinkett Smith, takes a different approach. While Jackie is flawed and proud, Christina Hawthorne is hell-bent on doing good -- so much so that it seems unnatural. Pinkett Smith bends over backwards to serve her patients and, while both nurses are rule-breakers, Hawthorne walks with the burden of a martyr. Frankly, it's unbecoming. Pinkett Smith is a solid actress who presents the character with a lot of strength, but that doesn't mean it's a strong character.
Mercy, which stars Taylor Schilling and Michelle Trachtenberg, has its own unique angle on the ubiquitous hospital theme, with main character Veronica (Callahan) returning from a tour in Iraq to work back in America. Combining the political timeliness of the Iraq War with the longstanding popularity of hospital dramas, Mercy shows some promise. As long as viewers are able to escape reality rather than confront it in the show -- which may be difficult given the post-war premise -- good acting should keep it afloat. Let's hope Schilling, Trachtenberg and cast deliver.
TV's nursing trend seems to have shifted slightly from the exausted ensemble cast format of other hospital shows (think ER, Chicago Hope, Grey's Anatomy, even Scrubs) by focusing instead on the individual medical professional. Either way, the real question is why viewers are so fascinated by medical dramas. Is it the notion that all that doc talk will make us smarter? Our secret desire to be attractive, wealthy and heroic? The appeal of wearing comfy scrubs all day? Some combination thereof? One thing's for sure: Now it's nurses' turn to get some time in the spotlight. As these three new shows square off, it will be interesting to see who stays on staff.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story stated that NBC's Mercy would begin in the fall. In fact, the show will begin in the spring. The story has been updated with the correct information. Thanks to user pb24 for alerting us.