Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Nurse Jackie: "Chicken Soup"

Illustration for article titled Nurse Jackie: "Chicken Soup"

This episode of Nurse Jackie, far more than the previous two, revealed a common drawback of this nebulous genre known as the half-hour TV dramedy, namely, picking a side. Considering that a show can't be precisely 50% comedy/50% drama, most half-hour TV dramedies are usually more accurately described as "half-hour comedies with some moments of drama" or "half-hour dramas with some comedic touches." For its first two episodes, Nurse Jackie was decidedly the latter, a tone that I thought worked pretty well so far. But in "Chicken Soup," Nurse Jackie seemingly lunged for both the comedy—C plot about Zoey trying to get her stethoscope back from Dr. Fancypants,  patient who said his cat caught him cleaning the bathtub naked and went after his pendulous scrotum—and the drama—Jackie confronts nice Midwestern wife about the very addiction Jackie's developing, Jackie's concerned for her older daughter Gracie's growing anxiety, the goddamn sentimental chicken soup—with equal vigor. Unfortunately, the writers didn't end up grasping either.

That isn't to say that there weren't some funny moments in this episode. Zoey is such a warm, sweet, clueless character, and the perfect foil to cynical, weary Jackie, that even the rather sitcomy (in a bad way) plot about her trying to get her stethoscope back was pretty fun to watch. Her sincere, enthusiastic reaction to the probable beastiality fetishist's injury—"I married my cat when I was six…Aren't cats great?"—was just funny. And Jackie's interaction with Dr. Coop (aka The Great Facinelli) clip-clip-clipped along amusingly and even ended with a laugh: "Yeah I have a crush on Eddie. We fuck every day at noon. You're a moron." Cut to Jackie and Eddie fucking in the darkened pharmacy at 12:01pm. But there were certain comedic elements that didn't work. The stern hospital administrator's interactions with Jackie fell flat (frankly, as they always do). And Dr. Fancypants' whiny, "I'm just suuuch a materialistic bitch, aren't I?" attitude is still too broad, not to mention too grating, to be funny.

Still, as a whole, the comedy in "Chicken Soup" worked much better than the drama. Jackie's vague concern about her daughter's anxiety; a dying Eli Wallach receiving the chicken soup cure from his wife instead of a cardiology consult; Jackie's fleeting flash of recognition of her own painkiller addiction while googling treatment center options for the Vicodin-addicted Midwestern wife—all of it felt about as compelling as watching someone twiddle their thumbs. In fact there was only one dramatic scene that worked: When, after giving Jackie a backrub with his sad hands, Eddie told her he was being replaced by a "bullshit robot pill machine." Watching Jackie fume over her loss of easy access to pills only to have Eddie respond, "I'm gonna miss you too," was both kinda sad and kinda funny. In short, it was the golden mean of half-hour dramedy. And it also propelled the action forward: If Jackie loses her pharmacist, how will she get her pills? Dr. Fancypants? Possible Coop? Will she still see her pharmacist without the added incentive of pills?

Of course, those questions will have to wait for next week. Jackie's busy right now giving her daughter some sentimental chicken soup for the anxiety-ridden soul. Ugh.

Grade: C+

Stray Observations:

—So, with all of the focus on the magical chicken soup given to the dying elderly man, was anyone else waiting for the inevitable poison reveal? I'm still waiting for it. It had to be euthanasia-via-Campbell's, right? If not, it's just a nice old lady giving her nice old husband some soup until he dies, which is sweet and all but just sentimentality for sentimentality's sake.


—"The M-14 is a nice bus, if you're gonna get hit by one." Actually, the M-14 would be the worst bus to get hit by, Dying Eli Wallach. It's one of those extra-long accordion buses, so you'd be thoroughly run over by a dozen or more tires, and it's always incredibly slow, so it would be more painful.

—Jackie, about the impending robot pill machine: "They might as well staple a camera to my forehead." In Jackie's sex scene with Eddie later, she kinda does have a camera stapled to her forehead. Well, it opens in her POV.


—"It's like the most amazing feeling you've ever had…and it's not easy to feel that in Toledo, Ohio." A self-hating Midwesterner? Does that exist?