Nurse Jackie, BBC2
My Daughter Amy, Channel 4
Edie Falco's new, no-nonsense character would certainly have a few sharp words to say to Amy's self-absorbed father
Sunday 10 January 2010
A new drama series from Liongate (which gave the world Mad Men), premiered on American TV last June, was launched here over five nights on BBC2, and at first sight looked familiar.
It's set in an emergency room at a New York hospital; the characters communicate in urgent medic-speak ("It's an acute subdominal haematoma!") and there's sexual tension in the air – but it's decidedly not ER. Life, as refracted through the consciousness of Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco from The Sopranos) is a dirty business.
The heroine of Nurse Jackie is a low-level druggie who conducts an affair with the pharmacist to guarantee her supply, and grinds amphetamines into artificial sweetener to get her through the day. Her work never slackens. She cannot have lunch with her English doctor friend without performing a Heimlich manoeuvre on a choking diner nearby. When not in theatre, she acidly confronts male colleagues or patients for their shortcomings. She ticks off a young surgeon for misdiagnosing a terminal case (and is surprised when he responds by fondling her breast). When a foreign psychopath, who has slashed a woman 220 times but has diplomatic immunity, is brought in to have his severed ear reattached, Jackie tells the bloodied organ to eff off before flushing it down the loo.
We're dealing here with a modern-day saint, whose virtue resides in caring about the patients and bending or breaking rules to help them. Ms Falco brings a bracing combination of sass and moral rigour to the role of Jackie. The only false notes from the writers are to give Jackie a cute home life, with a loving bartender husband and adorable little girls, and a ditzy student nurse who regularly tells her "You're a saint", just so she can deny it. If the makers were more confident of their audience, they wouldn't need such sentimentality. But it's an intriguing drama, and you won't find quotations from T S Eliot and St Augustine in the scripts of Holby City.
God knows what Nurse Jackie would make of My Daughter Amy, the first of a number of First Cut documentaries by tyro film-makers. Jazz Thwaite had the bright idea of turning a camera on Mitchell Winehouse, London cab driver and father of Amy, multi-award-winning singer and national car crash. Mitch seized the chance of a relationship with the camera to set the record straight ("Everyone thinks they know our story") and display the Amy he knew. Cue snaps from the family album, and cine footage of Amy aged six or seven, yelling at the lens.
It was then fascinating to watch as Mitch blithely switched the focus of interest from Amy's problems to his own. We saw him visit a Harley Street shrink who advised, "You can't keep carrying her [i.e. Amy's] burden because you could be the one who drops down dead." We sat with him at a group therapy session, listened to his anxiety attacks ("I've got a lot of unresolved anger in me over Blake and Amy") and watched as he discussed his guilt feelings with Amy's mum. Soon, the Amy Winehouse Problem had become the Mitch Winehouse Show. At one point he even said, "Without the help of my family, I think I would have gone under."
A trip to St Lucia found a hostile and unco-operative Amy refusing to be charming to tourists or her father, who began to struggle with the suspicion that he was intruding on her privacy just like any paparazzo. You tried to sympathise with him but it was hard to get past his bone-headed solipsism. Told by the shrink that his daughter might fall back into drug addiction, he replied, "I don't think I would survive that." You longed for Nurse Jackie to show up and ask: Jeez, Mitchell, whose survival is more problematic right now?
The new series of Hustle, meanwhile, addressed its chronic problem of finding suitable victims for our charming gang of rascals to con. Mickey, Ash and co can't thieve from innocents – they have to target baddies, cheats and crooks to neutralise their own villainy. The show's main badass this week was Sir Edmund "Piggy" Richardson, former banker with an embarrassingly huge pension, who longed to escape to California. Played by Patrick Ryecart, in City suit and shooting jacket, he blustered about being "a pariah" as a result of "bloody jealousy". Thank you God, the writers must have thought, for giving us Sir Fred Goodwin and Anthony Steen.
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