Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton and Eve Best as Dr....

Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton and Eve Best as Dr. O'Hara on "Nurse Jackie" on the season five premiere. Credit: Showtime

THE SHOW "Nurse Jackie"

WHEN | WHERE Season premiere Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Remember how the fifth season ended? Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) blowing out the candle on her one-year-sober birthday cake? Fix the image, because it is about to be shattered: She's using again. She's also more expert at concealment. Meanwhile, she meets a sponsor at the 12-step meeting, Antoinette (Julie White, who may be of questionable help -- as is the entire 12-step process. Also: Dr. Roman (Betty Gilpin) is still incompetent and Fitch Cooper (Peter Facinelli) is still smitten with her. Zoey Barker's (Merritt Wever) relationship with Dr. Ike Prentiss (Morris Chestnut) is not quite a secret anymore.

MY SAY "Nurse Jackie" is like an airplane in slow descent -- approaching the airport and now, in a circling pattern. "Descent" and "circle" are the operative words here because it is patently clear that Jackie Peyton is not, will not, and could not be in a good place this season.

That's your descent. Here's your "circle:" We've been here before. The relapse, lies, self-destruction, and the demolition of personal relationships. Anyone who thinks "Nurse Jackie" is a comedy or even "dramedy" is fooling themselves. It's a portrait of addiction, with some of the darkest places scrubbed clean, to preserve the illusion of "comedy," fleeting as it is.

Former "Dexter" boss Clyde Phillips is now running this show, and he is facing the same dilemma here as there -- how to preserve a series by evolving the main character without turning him or her into someone else. Dex could get fleeting happiness -- a wife, a son -- but it would all, or mostly all, be stripped away. His only constant companion was his "dark passenger." Jackie's is her pills.

"Dexter" became silly, but "Nurse Jackie" probably won't get that chance to debase itself. That's because the 6th season feels like the penultimate one. Jackie's story feels played out. You -- or I -- want something better for her other than self-parody: That would be self-dignity.

The runway is in sight.

BOTTOM LINE Falco is very good, always is, but her show has gotten tired.


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