DAVID BIANCULLI

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Fabulous, Fractured Females: "Nurse Jackie" and "United States of Tara" Return Tonight on Showtime
March 22, 2010  | By David Bianculli
 
united-states-of-tara-10-M2.jpgOn Showtime tonight from 10-11 p.m. ET, two engrossing TV characters return who are struggling to keep themselves together: Edie Falco as the pill-popping Nurse Jackie, and Toni Collette as the woman with several distinct personalities in The United States of Tara. Both shows are wonderful -- and if both Collette and Falco aren't competing this fall for Best Actress Emmys, something's awfully wrong somewhere...

In Nurse Jackie, Falco's nurse is 60 percent nasty attitude (for the young, stupid, chauvinist doctors), 30 percent empathy (for her patients), and 10 percent illegally obtained drugs. The drug use isn't condoned, but, at this point, Jackie is a functioning addict. Though sometimes functioning only barely, since her ex-lover is starting to hang out with her unsuspecting husband, some of her colleagues are lodging official complaints against her, and one of her daughters is exhibiting strong signs of acute anxiety.

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Some of what Jackie says and does is biting and hilarious, like a female Larry David in scrubs. But there is pathos, too, and panic, and a lot of recognizable reality. As good as Falco was in The Sopranos, she's every bit as good, and believable, and sympathetic here, too. And the supporting cast, this season, is given more to do, and does it well, especially Eve Best as Jackie's best friend Dr. O'Hara, Peter Facinelli as the clueless Dr. Cooper, and Anna Deavere Smith as Glora Akalitus, who runs the hospital.

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Over on season two of The United States of Tara, the supporting cast gets to spread its wings, too -- in one case literally, as Tara's daughter Kate (Brie Larson) begins earning extra money by posing as a pop-art mythical female avenger. Brother Marshall (Keir Gilchrist) is defining and redefining his sexuality, Tara's sister Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt) is about to change her marital status, and Tara's husband Max (John Corbett) looks for other fix-it projects to tackle now that his wife seems integrated as a single, healed personality.

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Except that the death of a neighbor triggers a relapse, and things get really complicated, and really intriguing, from there. I'm not spoiling the fun, but there are other alter egos on the horizon, and other complications, and -- thanks to a rotary phone, a rain poncho and other visual clues -- a slowly unfolding mystery that would easily satisfy fans of Lost or Flashforward.

Falco, playing one role, is astounding. Collette, playing several, ARE astounding. Both -- all -- should be seen.

For my Fresh Air with Terry Gross review of these and other shows, click HERE.\

2 Comments

 

ashcom said:

A little off topic, but who is Rose? I thought her name was Ellen.

Love your site, check it daily, read it often.

[Whoops. Rose is Rose Byrne, the actress who plays Ellen. My temporary brain malfunction. Good catch. -- David B.]

Comment posted on March 22, 2010 8:39 PM


Jim Forkan said:

Hi David
This is off topic too. I know you don't do "Extras" anymore but I spotted one last night during ABC's "Castle." Actress Susan Sullivan, who plays Castle's mother, is shown in one scene watching a video of her younger self on "The Incredible Hulk" series.
Cheers,
JIm

[Thanks, Jim -- But hey, we DO still collect Extras here! Click on the EXTRAS + FEEDBACK button on the navigation bar...]

Comment posted on March 23, 2010 5:10 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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