It's hard to believe 'Nurse Jackie' will be starting its fourth season on Showtime in April. It doesn't seem like it's been four years since I started watching the series. These shows with only 12 or 13 episodes a season fly by so fast you hardly reaize you've watched an entire season, but you have.
'Nurse Jackie' is another Showtime series that I'm addicted to. I didn't have high hopes for it when it started, I'd seen one too many formulaic emergency room dramas over the years and I just didn't think this one could really break the mold. Ultimately, I gave the pilot episode a chance since I normally like what Showtime schedules.
While much of the show takes place in the hospital, the screenplay for each episode does a good job sidestepping the usual "case of the week" and instead focuses on the dynamics between the variety of characters populating the halls of All Saints Hospital in New York.
Fresh off her run as Carmela Soprano, Edie Falco took on the role of Jackie Peyton. A drug-addicted nurse who is married to her job, cheats on her husband, but still finds the time to berate anyone who tells her how to raise her kids. Like many of Showtime's protagonists, nowadays, Jackie isn't what you'd consider a "good person." Her morals are iffy at best. She's a pathological liar who makes George Castanza look like an amateur. She's constantly juggling lie on top of lie in order to keep her image as squeaky clean as she can.
At the end of the second season, Jackie's best friend Dr. O'Hara (Eve Best) and her husband Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) had seemingly pulled back the layers of lies to find out that Jackie was indeed a drug addict. Beginning the third season Jackie goes on the offensive, trying to explain away the astronomical pharmacy bills she was getting at a secret P.O. Box. Things between Jackie and Kevin become very heated this season, although I must say that the show intentionally misleads you into thinking one thing about Kevin and then turns a 180 towards the end, revealing something that doesn't really make sense if you take into account the way he acted all the way up until then.
Jackie and Kevin's marital strife may take front stage most of the time, but with 'Nurse Jackie' it’s the surrounding cast of characters that makes this show a joy to watch. Hospital bureaucrat Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) gets even more screen time this time around. She's, by far the funniest part of the show. She becomes obsessed with trying to get First Lady Michelle Obama to visit the hospital. So much so that she dreams up a way to combat childhood obesity, starting with some overweight kids walking into the emergency room wearing T-shirts that read, "No thank you, I'm full."
Zoey (Merritt Wever) is the other bright spot in the show. She's constantly happy, which annoys her overworked and underpaid co-workers. It especially annoys Jackie, who wears a dour face most of the time. It's nice to have a counter to Jackie's constant pessimistic view on life. Zoey wears bright bunny scrubs and has been given even more of a prominent role this season. She and resident ambulance driver Lenny (Lenny Jacobson) are working on their very awkward yet hilarious relationship with each other.
I'm a fan of 'Nurse Jackie' and seeing that this is the third season you either are or aren't fans by now. It's a good little half hour drama which features a cast of very funny side characters which keep me interested even when Jackie's life begins to circle the drain.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate distributes 'Nurse Jackie.' Here the show has been pressed onto two 50GB Blu-ray Discs. They're packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. The set comes with a sheet with episode titles, synopses, writing and directing credits. I always forget that Steve Buscemi usually directs one or two episodes a season.
This release looks identical to the good-looking transfer of the release for season two. Noise was a problem in the first season, but that was done away with by the time the second season rolled around. From there on out it's been clear sailing as far as detailed video presentation is concerned.
The 1080p picture reveals a very detailed image. Facial detail looks great here, and is necessary to the acting when Falco and the other actors pull slight facial expressions that wouldn't be noticed otherwise. The fluorescent-lit hospital provides a neutral color palette. Lots of whites, grays and light blues to work with. About the only pops of color you have to look forward to are Zoey's scrubs which are an array of endlessly bright colors. Blacks are nice and deep, featuring shadows that never crush.
If you enjoyed the way the show looked in season two, then get ready for another pleasing presentation with season three.
I love that Lionsgate provides 'Nurse Jackie' with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio presentation, even though the show doesn't really feature the type of action that may warrant two extra channels. I still like that Lionsgate is committed to putting out 7.1 tracks whatever the release may be.
Like the second season, the extra sound just isn't there to provide a very engrossing 7.1 track. The side channels don't feature much in the way of ambient sound. Most of it is given to the rear speakers to handle. There are times where people are talking off screen, and their voices are placed in the side speakers, but even in a busy emergency room the audio seems a bit subdued. There's also not much LFE to go around in this season, except for the occasional song on the soundtrack that calls for it. I do like how songs like "Don't Rain on My Parade," which is played during the first few moments of episode one, are piped through the whole soundstage. It's a nice soundtrack, but the 7.1 stage is a little overwhelming for a low-key show like this.
The commentaries featuring Falco with the executive producers are heavy on the technical aspects of the shoot. They talk about how great it is to shoot in New York because of the type of shots you can get, like the shot they get with a crane cam when Coop and Eddie trot away in a carriage after Coop's failed marriage attempt. There's a lot of laughing and meandering in these commentaries though. They feel a little too crowded with people talking over one another. Falco does offer some insight into the way she plays Jackie, and we even get to hear her talk about using her own dog in one of the episodes.
The other two commentaries provided by Smith and Schulze are a little deeper in substance. If you've already watched the "Inside Akalitus" featurette you'll know how deep a thinker Smith really is. She talks extensively about how she views certain characters and the dark comedic tone of the series as a whole. She discusses deeper questions like what she thinks people like about the show. Although, with only two of them commentating these commentaries have a lot of dead air.
'Nurse Jackie' snuck in under the radar when it premiered in 2009. I wasn't planning on giving the show a second thought because I tend to not really enjoy medical procedural shows. I was glad to find out that this series is anything but procedural. The life of the show exists in the funny, original characters that are placed around Jackie. I know a series has great characterizations when I find myself thinking that I wouldn't mind watching a spin-off centered around any one of these side characters. It's not too late to get into 'Nurse Jackie' seeing that the seasons are short and the episodes are only 30 minutes long. This release of season three is definitely recommended for fans, but even newcomers should take a look. You may like what you see. Recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.