Review: "Nurse Jackie"

Reason to watch: Third-season premiere.

When/Where: Monday night at 10 on Showtime

'Nurse Jackie' with Edie Falco, season 3

Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton in "Nurse Jackie"

Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton in "Nurse Jackie" (Season 3, Episode 1) ( Ken Regan/Showtime) (Credit: Showtime Photo/)

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Vicodin and Adderall-hooked Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) -- a nurse at All Saints Hospital -- ended last season walking out on her husband, Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) and being confronted at home by her pal Dr. Eleanor O'Hara (Eve Best). Jackie rushed into the bathroom, stared in the mirror, laughed and uttered an expletive. Jackie wasn't ready for an intervention.

WHAT PREMIERE'S ABOUT Jackie dumps the contents of the bathroom medicine cabinet into a pillowcase, then dumps that at the feet of Kevin -- who had earlier pushed a credit card bill under her nose listing dozens of transactions at various pharmacies. That's for his razors, and everything else she has to buy for the kids, she barks. Kevin later turns up at the hospital, demanding to see Jackie, even though her colleague Zoey (Merritt Wever) tells him Jackie's not married -- Jackie has, after all, been carrying on a long and torrid affair with pharmacist Eddie Walzer (Paul Schulze).

MY SAY Comedy or drama? . . . drama or comedy? . . . "Nurse Jackie" continues to have it both ways in the third season, which is certainly a smart strategy, considering what it did for this series and its lead (an Emmy for outstanding actress/comedy) last year. But watch this series closely and you begin to wonder whether Falco got the wrong nomination. She's a powerful dramatic actress who manages to make this role work because her Jackie has so thoroughly absorbed -- and rationalized -- her life of intensive drug use and casual dissembling. She isn't some Charlie Sheen in a crisp blue nursing uniform -- creepy image, I know. Sorry -- who can barely control her rage or inner demons. She is her inner demon, which also happens to be highly functioning, intelligent and even (on occasion) compassionate. Her patsy remains the impossibly dim Kevin, with a tenth of her brain.

BOTTOM LINE The problem with "Jackie" is that split personality -- drama or comedy. What's funny here is funny, like last season's final seconds. There aren't enough moments that remind you when to laugh.

GRADEB

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