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'Nurse Jackie' review: Falco's good, show's changed

Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton and Eve Best

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 Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Reformed liar, recovered addict, fired from All Saints and soon to be divorced, Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) has been to hell and back, and hell and back and -- as the fifth season begins -- she finds herself somewhere in between: Dr. Cruz (Bobby Cannavale), who canned her last season, is gone -- grieving for a lost son, Charlie, who died from a drug overdose last season.

Jackie was close to Charlie, too, but at least she has her gig back with Gloria Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) in charge again. As always, All Saints remains dysfunctional: A new resident, Carrie Roman (Betty Gilpin), is more interested in her cellphone than her patients, while another new doc, Ike Prentiss (Morris Chestnut) -- a former battlefield surgeon in Afghanistan -- brings an iron discipline and an Arctic temperament.

MY SAY This all probably comes under the heading of WTMI -- way too much information -- but here goes anyway: "Nurse Jackie" co-creator Liz Brixius left last spring to move back full-time to Los Angeles (the show is shot in New York), so former ''Dexter" boss Clyde Phillips got into the driver's seat for the fifth season. The net result of this creative handoff arrives Sunday, and the results are surprisingly mixed.

This show always has been a reluctant comedy, so Phillips wisely hasn't attempted to reverse course and turn it into a sitcom. But the comic elements now feel intrusive or just plain forced. The whole rhythm is off. In one sense, that's to be expected -- Jackie's rebooting her life just as Showtime is rebooting her series -- but some of that old fire has died down. Will it return?

There's a real spark when Adam Ferrara joins as a cop with a particular interest in one nurse a few episodes in, and one would reasonably expect a roaring blaze when Cannavale returns later this season. Chestnut's character -- grim, stolid, full of himself -- is a good addition, too, if only because you suspect that at some point, he and Jackie will either kill each other or run off together.

BOTTOM LINE Falco -- as always -- remains one of TV's bright shining lights, but her "Nurse Jackie" suddenly feels like a work in progress.


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