Nurse Jackie and My Little White Lie

Nurse Jackie was a bit of a slow burn, but it grew on me through the second season.  I don’t think I saw all of the episodes because BBC2 kept moving it around the schedule, but the last one of the season was a fittingly eclectic mix of themes, black comedy and domestic drama.

Jackie, played with understated brilliance by Edie Falco (equally excellent as Carmela in The Sopranos), is a no nonsense, capable nurse in the ER of a New York hospital.  Good at her job, she has a very complicated life, as she is essentially a different person with a different tale to tell to each of the people close to her.  She has a husband and two daughters, but she denies their existence to some of her work colleagues, which allows her to conduct an affair with Eddie the pharmacist, and somehow encourages Coop, the clueless young doctor, to harbour romantic fantasies about her.

Her closest friend is O’Hara (Eve Best) a sharp tongued English doctor; but Jackie even lies to her, because Jackie is also addicted to prescription drugs.

It’s an intriguing portrait of addiction.  So often television and film depicts addicts as street derelicts, or high flyers crashing and burning; instead Jackie is highly functioning, resourceful, wily and determined not to be found out.  She variously charms, lies to, manipulates and takes money from  the people who love her to both feed and disguise her addiction.

Her deception and cunning should make her a dislikeable character, but her warmth and kindness to her patients is what redeems her in the viewers eyes.

But as well as this complicated character study there are ridiculous and surreal  moments: two nurses tap dancing in their scrubs to keep another one, drunk to the point of unconsciousness, awake; Mrs Akelitis, the humourless ER manager (played with straight faced  bewilderment by Anna Deavere Smith) searching out the source of the smell of cigarettes above the ceiling tiles.

As a portrait of addiction it has made me reflect on what hard work it is to keep a pack of lies in order; to remember to whom you told what and when, to know which face you should be showing at which moment.  It made me think about what it takes to be a good liar.

I like to think I’m a really bad liar.  I’m good at saying nothing and hiding what I’m thinking, but if required to speak an untruth, I think it’s immediately obvious to anyone listening.  But after last weekend, I think I might need to recategorise myself as a ‘Method Liar’.

I wanted to leave a social gathering earlier than my host would have liked; I was driving a friend back to London and I used her need to get back to town for an appointment as my excuse to leave early.  I rushed back to my place to meet my friend and packed the car up quickly, apologising to her for being a bit behind schedule.

She had been sitting in the garden in the sun.  ‘I’m very relaxed,’ she said.

It was only after we’d been on the road for about 20 minutes that I realised I had become so caught up in my little white lie that I believed we were actually in a hurry, when in fact her appointment was a good 2 hours after we would be back in town, and so in reality we had acres of time.

Maybe that’s the key, to always believe what you say.   For sure, you can always believe what I say.

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  1. brendan stallard

     /  May 4, 2011

    “I like to think I’m a really bad liar.”


    Heh, I could only confirm that after extensive tests involving lots of time in a darkened basement:)

    Nurse Jackie is such a courageous show. Putting something as dark as that out there was a real step up. There is utter tripe on telly, but NJ is one at least that makes you think while being entertained.

    I like the writing, I like the playing and I love the fact that not one single character plays cameo trash. Every character, even the walk-ons, are given something meaningful to do , and do it well.

    “you can always believe what I say.”

    Indeed, and I am the Avon Lady:)



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