Public Service Announcement 44 of 2015: Nurse Jackie, Satisfaction

Nearly 18 months after it was last shown on British TV, Nurse Jackie finally returns for its sixth season (which was itself shown on American TV around 18 months ago). I quite liked season 4, and I’ve reviewed every episode so far, but I’m not sure I’m even going to be watching this time around: the mood’s gone off me, to be honest (Wednesday, 10.10pm, Sky Atlantic).

And the USA Network’s Satisfaction slips quietly onto British screens tomorrow as well, for the first episode of a ten-ep season. It stars Matt Passmore as Neil, a married man who finds his wife in bed with a male sex worker. For some reason which will no doubt be explained in the show, Neil then decides to give escort work a try himself. It doesn’t sound as if we’re a million miles from Hung. Reviews have been ok-ish, and the show has been renewed for a second season. I think I’m going to pass, but my guess is that this is the sort of show that will really work for some viewers (Wednesday, 9pm, Sony Entertainment Television).

Coming soon: Justified, Empire, The Leftovers, and Orphan Black (and perhaps the most bizarre scheduling decision in history).

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Jackie and Frank are arguing, then make up. Zoey and Prentiss are a thing. Roman’s peer review confirms that she’s an appalling doctor, but she then comes up with some bullshit about a hostile working environment which enables her to keep her job, Akalitus wisely observing that they don’t want their dirty washing visible to the world. And Holling Vincoeur from Northern Exposure is in the hospital this week, as a terminally ill cancer patient who doesn’t want morphine because he’s been clean for 22 years. Thor just gives him some without telling him, which enables him to drift off peacefully.

And he’s not the only character to return to drugs this week. When I said in my review of the first episode of the season that Clyde Phillips, the new showrunner, had simply hit the reset button, I managed to forget the one area – Jackie’s new-found sobriety – where he left things as they were. Not any more, though, if the final scenes are to be taken at face value: Jackie swallows the single capsule she had concealed in the box holding her wedding ring, then went to celebrate her first year sober. Which presumably means that by the start of the next season we will be more or less back where we started. I’ll reserve judgment; I was quite enjoying watching clean Jackie.

Actually, this season as a whole was somewhat more enjoyable than I was expecting. On the downside, the character of Dr Roman is perhaps the least appealing in TV history, the Akalitus arc was a waste, and Jackie’s problems with her kids aren’t particularly interesting. But after a slow start to the season there was a run of decent episodes. Of course, much of the credit belongs to Merritt Wever, who continues to work miracles on a weekly basis, and this time got the guy as well; she didn’t have much to do in this episode, but it could reasonably be argued that by this point she’s entitled to be sitting on the couch at home polishing her Emmy. Edie Falco is always terrific, and – much to my surprise – Peter Facinelli’s Coop came through as a more interesting and nuanced character than he’s been in the past, perhaps because with a bigger idiot than him on the medical staff it was finally time for him to grow a pair. So Nurse Jackie isn’t quite the show it was in its first couple of seasons, perhaps, but it’s doing more than enough to justify its continued existence. Season 6 is under way in America, with a seventh-season renewal already confirmed; no word on when and if viewers in the UK will get either.

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There’s much more about the appalling Grace this week; drugs, boys, the usual. Fortunately Zoey the Magnificent is all over the episode as well, and whether she’s impersonating Roman, making complicated hand gestures with Grace (“So what the fuck is going on?”), offering Jackie advice, or sugesting that Jackie and Grace follow their blood tests with a mother and daughter manicure, she rules this episode as much as anyone has ever ruled anything ever.

It’s a big week for romance as well: Frank and Jackie DTD and he then tells Jackie that he loves her. And Roman, dumped by Cooper, comes onto Prentiss: I kind of hoped that Prentiss, no idiot, could do better than that, and we discover that he can and has. Squee! Zoey’s week, obviously, but then it always is.

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The Nurse Jackie scales are tilting the wrong way this week. Grace’s acting out I don’t care for; we can but hope that Akalitus and her memory loss has now been solved, meaning that she can get a proper storyline or two before the season ends; and even though Dr Roman manages to get a clutch diagnosis right, I don’t have to like it. Or her. And I don’t want to see her hanging out with Prentiss any more than Zoey does.

Even Jackie’s nascent relationship with Frank is under threat. Kevin walks in on the two of them making out, Jackie overreacts, and Frank – who presumably isn’t familiar with this side of our Jackie – is evidently spooked. Still, they’re working at it. And Zoey takes it on herself to sort out Prentiss’s appallingly badly organised office, which of course she does brilliantly. The game of Mad Libs she and Prentiss then play was her, and our, reward; and, of course, the nicest, sweetest – and sexiest? – moment of the week by a mile. Gently. Falcon. Deux. Small of the back.

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Prentiss is cranky. “Did anyone ever tell you you have a nice smile?” asks Zoey, who decides that it’s time to humanise him. “I don’t do hugs”, he warns her. He will, as it happens, have to endure hugs, but not until later in the episode. Because, once again, it’s a game of two halves. I’m now irritated every time Dr Roman merely appears in shot, although Coop finally stops thinking with his penis for long enough to at least try to teach her some rudimentary medical skills. (He’s already been thrown by the realisation that his flashcard-assisted BDSM sex with Roman last week was recorded, and part-transcribed by Zoey: “Oh my God! OH MY GOD!”) And Akalitus is forgetful again, so Jackie comes up with a ruse to ensure that her blood is tested; this, too, is an arc that I’m becoming tired of, and something of a misuse of a strong character.

The episodes shifts gear, though, when there’s a police officer with gunshot wounds on his way in. Jackie’s scared it might be nice Frank, although that possibility is trailed for long enough that we can be pretty sure it isn’t. Prentiss has to apply his battlefield skills to save the cop, then tell his colleagues that he’s going to live – hence the hugs. In the middle of this, though, there is a quite, quite brilliant moment, when Zoey takes Prentiss’s medical notes away while he’s addressing the assembled police officers, forcing him to speak from the heart. And shortly thereafter there’s a lovely exchange between Frank and Jackie, when he tells her what happens when cops get drunk.

It could be argued that the episode’s nowhere near acerbic enough. Fair enough, although Zoey’s always been allowed to be sweet. (Merritt Wever owns the episode, of course, but no change there. I’m not remotely surprised she won the Emmy for this season.) As for Jackie – well, she’s been clean for 11 months, she’s laughing more, and allowing herself to be described as pretty: perhaps the lighter tone’s just part of the upswing she’s on. The show, incidentally, is about to start its sixth season in America, and has already been renewed for a seventh.

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Grace gets punished; Roman is trying to avoid patient contact, and after an unpleasant encounter with a patient has a bizarre hookup with Coop; Jackie has to choose between Cruz, the morning after they did the deed, and the nice guy cop. Pretty straightforward, this one: I don’t much care about Grace or Roman. Coop, who of course has extensive previous for being stupid, is being staggeringly stupid. And I probably saw enough of Cruz in season 4. Fortunately, even though it’s Zoey’s day off, she’s in the hospital anyway because her showerhead fell on her and she needs stitches, which means more of Merritt Wever’s by-now-routine brilliance. As for the rest of it: not great.

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Jackie has a date with the nice cop, and after some rudimentary detective work from Zoey everyone in the hospital knows about it, and they’re all more excited than Jackie, who’s nervous as hell – she’s never been sober in a dress before. It’s not Zoey’s only triumph this week by any means: she needs to deliver a baby on the floor of the ER in about thirty seconds flat, which she does, getting not only a round of applause from the waiting room, but a high-five from Prentiss. (Unusually convincing newborn as well.) Zoey spends so much time as the comic relief it’s lovely to see her being supremely competent as well.

As for the less promising storylines: the Roman/Coop story drags on to no great purpose, although when she fellates him that makes the third show I’ve seen in three days to feature oral sex, after My Mad Fat Diary and The Americans. They’re like buses, I suppose: you wait ages for a blow-job, etc. Akalitus is making up for forgetting stuff by being a great nurse. And Grace tests the boundaries again. Still don’t care.

Back to the date: it’s going pretty well when it’s hijacked by Dr Cruz; he and Jackie share their grief at the death of his son, which inevitably leads to what looks to me like horrendously ill-advised sex. Nice cop a bit too nice, then? Whatever; this was another enjoyable episode.