TV: Holby City vs Nurse Jackie
This week’s column is about hospital dramas. I’m not usually keen on hospital dramas. Admittedly, I haven’t watched an episode of a British hospital drama in about two decades but, because I am a professional, I did watch the first 10 minutes of a Holby City episode on BBC iPlayer for the purposes of this column. It was shit.
A cast of characters who all looked like catalogue models exchanged dreary dialogue underpinned by a cryptic yet singularly listless brand of sexual flirtation. No wonder the Tories are hell-bent on shafting the NHS if this is the only exposure they get to it.
American hospitals: different story. In Nurse Jackie, Edie Falco (you know, Carmela Soprano) plays the brilliant eponymous character. She is an amazing nurse: constantly saving lives, changing catheters and lying to insurance companies to make sure broke-ass patients get the care they need. She is so passionate about her work that she even scores weed for a patient with MS and delivers it to his apartment after work.
She is like an angel. But here’s the thing: she is also really, really bad. She cheats on her perfectly pleasant husband. She neglects her kids. And she punctuates days kicking butt in A&E by snorting prescription drugs in the bogs. Nurse Jackie is an addict. It doesn’t add up, does it?
Exactly. Because life doesn’t add up. People are neither good nor bad, are they? That inner conflict lies at the heart of the human condition and is usually better dissected by the richer form of literature. But Nurse Jackie nails it in half-hour episodes on the box. Sounds difficult and dark? It is a bit. But it’s also totally LOLS.
The supporting cast is astoundingly brilliant: not least Merritt Wever as junior nurse Zoey, who turns in one of the best comic performances I’ve ever seen on TV. On top of all this, you get a fast paced, hyper-real, totally authentic portrayal of blue-collar domestic life, overworked medical professionals and the messy, intense and hilarious inter-staff dynamics of the hospital ward. Plus, it being America, a tonne of awesome gunshot wounds. Which is another thing American hozzies have got over British ones.
Nurse Jackie is on Sky Atlantic, Saturday nights late, repeated Tuesday nights late - see listings for times