I’m not sure anyone takes any notice of those signs hospitals and GP surgeries put up telling us not to use mobile phones because they ‘interfere with sensitive medical equipment’. It’s a huge fib to cover up the fact that the noise is irksome for staff. And the freeing up of this convention has impacted on medical dramas. In Holby, for example, a patient was recently seen to be blogging about the lack of bedside manners (and nurse fondling activities) of the new heart surgeon. And now, in the second of the new series of Nurse Jackie, one of the doctors regularly tweets what’s going on around him. Or more specifically, since it’s Dr Cooper, what a total ‘biatch’ Jackie is. Cooper is gunning for her, and has also put in a complaint to Gloria Akilitus about Jackie undermining his ‘authority’. This, of course, is entirely accurate. But then he is, in her words, ‘a twitter tweetering dickhead’ who can’t be trusted to concentrate on his work when he’s got his iPhone to play with.
But things are never black and white in Nurse Jackie. In this episode, she wrongly sends a family home without Cooper’s say so, whose son, it transpires, has cystic fibrosis. In most series when you have a maverick (House, for example) the flawed central character is usually brilliant at their job despite personal failings. Jackie is also brilliant at her job in the main, but she makes mistakes. Which is not entirely surprising given how many painkillers she’s snorting (yes, I know House does that too).
In episode one we got a full whack of all the dysfunction taking place around, and sometimes because of, her. Her distraught pharmacist ex-lover Eddy was brought into the hospital on a stretcher after having taken an overdose. Her elder daughter is clearly suffering from some kind of serious anxiety disorder. And if that weren’t bad enough, Sam, the agency nurse she fired in the last series for being high, is back, post-rehab, on staff and on his high horse about the drug use of any other member of staff. You find yourself, as a viewer, in the surreal position of hating him for being such a smug goody two shoes, and somehow on her side. That is the genius of Edie Falco.
It’s never a sentimental show, and at no time does it follow normal hospital drama convention. In this episode we get Dr O’Hara (whose mother died at the end of the last series) the morning-after-the-night-before, still off her face on E and ravenously eating hot dogs. Jackie takes O’Hara into the hospital in this state, hooks her up to an iv and gets her to sign off all her charts. Then the guy who lives opposite, who calls himself ‘God’, is brought in after getting hit on the head by a passer-by who didn’t appreciate having “I can see your soul, whore” yelled at him out of the window. ‘God’ then has a crisis of faith because when he was knocked unconscious, he “saw God and he wasn’t me. Which means my life is a sham.”. He is helped by wonderful nurse Zoey, in her teddy bear scrubs and a Hermes scarf given to her by O’Hara, who tells him “I used to think I was an angel because of my round face”. Later, Jackie finds diabetic nurse Thor hiding in the hospital chapel eating doughnuts, lying down under a benches, where he shows her his hand-painted porcelain false eye.
So it’s messy, morally complicated, ambiguous business as usual. And bloody marvellous it is too.
Posted by Inkface
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