Nurse Jackie premiered tonight, and it's hard not to think about the fact that it started it's development life as an hour-long drama. Showtime saw potential in it as a half-hour comedy, specifically something to pair up with Weeds. Considering how it contains elements of House (main character in medical profession, is stubborn, addicted to painkillers) and other dramas (check out the Mad Men matrimonial fake-out ending,) by making it a dark comedy, it certainly sets the show apart a bit.
You can still see how it would've worked in it's original inception, and, in fact, how this would feel as a show that would air on HBO instead of Showtime. After seeing the first few episodes of True Blood's latest season (and Hung for that matter,) I wonder if the two networks might have an exchange program going on that we don't know about. The trippy opening, in particular, is something that feels right out of the HBO drama playbook (or, nowadays, AMC). The theme song to Valley of the Dolls (sung by Dionne Warwick,) with it's inherent drug connotations, provides the perfect backdrop to the opening scene, and it's hard to tear yourself away after.
Ultimately, though, it's Edie Falco that makes the show work. While there is plenty of talent involved, in particular Merritt Wever who is hilarious as the chatty intern, it's Falco who is the reason you'll come back for more. Even the ohnotheydidnt Sopranos moment of having Father Phil (Paul Schulze, here as Pharmacist Eddie) realize his dream doesn't feel like an intentional reference, because by then, Falco has already made me forget Carmella -- that's how good she it. As pilots often do, this episode paints characters in broad strokes, particularly the head administrator played by Anna Deavere Smith, and since there's only 25 minutes an episode, it takes a few more episodes for some of the other characters to become more than cardboard cutouts. Five episodes in (and I hear the sixth is the best) and it's already a must see for me. (Weeds gets the benefist of being the 25 minutes that happens prior, otherwise, there wold no longer be a trace of that series in the DVR.)
Song: "(Theme to) The Valley of the Dolls" - Dionne Warwick