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Dramatic Infarction

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 17, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 17, 2009 |

Don’t you just adore the way that every goddamn network on television realizes simultaneously that a particular idea has been left untapped and they all pounce on it simultaneously? Showtime debuted “Nurse Jackie,” last week; TNT debuted “HawthoRNE” this week, and next Fall, NBC debuts “Mercy.” It’s good for one thing, at least: It gives critics easy points of comparison. I’ll limit my comparison to this: “Nurse Jackie” is a decent show; “HawthoRNe” is bland, hopelessly idiotic drivel immersed in enough sugar to kill an army of diabetics.

It’s not surprising, I suppose. This is the apparent formula for TNT originals: Take a decent actress, stick her on an island of television cliches, and ask her to oversell her lines, as though she were standing a mile away and was asked to jam her dialogue into your cranial cavity. Ah: But the Emmy’s will never recognize Jada Pinkett Smith for her role in “HawthoRNe.” If you want to be a bad actress who over-delivers, you have to do it in a cringe-worthy Southern accent to get noticed by The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (see “The Closer” and “True Blood”). Sadly, even though the show is set in Richmond, Jada Pinkett Smith opts instead for just a touch of self-righteous sassmouth.

Here’s the generic set up: Jada Pinkett Smith stars as Christina Hawthorne, the chief nursing officer at Richmond Trinity Hospital. As the show opens, Christina is contemplating the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death when she’s unexpectedly called into the hospital by one of her husband’s old friends, who is about to take a header off the hospital roof. He does, and despite the splat of blood and brain matter on the sidewalk, Christina brings him in and, eventually, helps to nurse him back to consciousness. Christina also has a rebellious teenage daughter because of course she does.

As chief nursing office, it’s also Christina’s duty to be completely infallible, always right, and hold her hands on her hips while over-enunciating her lines. Much of her over-enunciation is directed at the doctors, because nurses are angels and doctors are golf-playing greedy devil spawn only half as smart as the RNs. The Chief of Surgery, Dr. Wakefield (Michael Vartan) isn’t so bad, though, because he sometimes takes the nurses’ side. He’s better looking than the other doctors and therefore an ideal love interest for Christina. Also, he has sad soulful eyes. And candy.

Let’s see. What else: The hot nurse of Indian origin who has a prosthetic leg, and is therefore incapable of finding a good man. Quirky! The hot blonde nurse who gives handies to sleeping patients. Sexy! The emasculated male nurse who is actually straight. Twist! The teenage daughter who chains herself to a vending machine to prove a point. Political! Oh, and also a homeless woman who gives birth to a baby and hides it out in her shopping cart. Melodrama! Don’t forget to cry.

Code Blue, motherfuckers. Oh wait: DOA.

No: Bowel Disimpaction.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.