TV Watch: Newfangled ways of measuring time (1): From "Nurse Jackie" 5/1 to 5/2 (and "Mad Men" 6/2 to 6/3)
For any readers who noticed my recent disappearance, let me say that it: (1) was planned and (2) seems to have achieved its objectives with great success. I'm back home with a new knee that already seems to be working better than the original-equipment one, though that's not saying much.
It's an oddity of our times, though, that when the spring TV-season announcements were made, it occurred to me almost at once that I would be home for the Season 5 premiere of Nurse Jackie, and then home again in time for Episode 2 -- and ditto with Episodes 2 and 3 of Season 6 of Mad Men.
When we left Nurse Jackie, nearing the climax of what seemed to me a triumphant Season 4, I was apprehensive about the installation a showrunner of onetime Dexter showrunner Clyde Phillips. Two episodes in, I couldn't be a much happier camper.
It made excellent sense that Phillips wrote the Season 5 premiere episode himself, enabling him to make some basic changes he intended, like reinstalling director Gloria Akaliuis (Anna Deavere Smith), pharmacist Eddie (Paul Schluze), and of course Jackie herself (Edie Falco) at All Saints, moving Zoey (Merritt Wever) out of Jackie's apartment, and of course cleaning out some old characters (bye-bye, nurse Sam [Arjun Gupta] and especially Dr. O'Hara [Eve Best] and her new baby, who returned to England in Episode 1) and introducing some new ones, notably the two new ER doctors: the Landstuhl Army ER whiz Ike Prentiss (Morris Chestnut), who is sometimes taken at first glance to be a drug dealer, and slutty, self-obsessed Carrie Roman (Betty Gilpin) who lives entirely by -- and one might say for -- her looks. All sorts of possibilities seem loaded in both. Also, one notices that Dr. Cooper (Peter Facinelli), whose character had been softened in Seasons 2 and 3, seems to have been rather re-infantilized. Lovely moment when Coop is whiningly uncomprehending about being passed over once again for ER chief and Jackie looks at him and says, "Really?"
More important, Phillips seems to have confident control of this remarkable set of characters he's created, with Jackie's hard-won sobriety only depressing her further as soon-to-be ex kevin (Dominic Fumusa) pushes the end of the marriage to an especially brutal conclusion, pushing hard for sole custody of Grace (Ruby Jerins) and Fi (Mackenzie Aladjem). Of course, given the level of deception Kevin has awakened to, he has every right to an enormous well of bitterness, but the level of vindictiveness programmed in goes well beyond the best interests of the children. It's hard not to notice that Gloria is exhibiting alarmingly large memory gaps, so we can assume there are plot developements to be developed there.
I've already re-watched Episodes 1 and 2 via "On Demand," and noticed that by Monday next week's episode was available as well. That struck me as a sufficiently stark disruption of the natural order of time that I haven't been willing to go there yet. I'm not swearing, though, that I'm going to be able to hold out till Sunday, though.
Meanwhile the Mad Men season seems to me off to a more controversial but also generally satisfying start. It's looking, though, like an even grimmer season that the last couple, with the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency now functioning in a more or less constant state of terror (to which everyone in a position of authority contributes in his/her own way) and Don Draper himself (Jon Hamm) losing pretty much all claim to audience sympathy. It looks to be a pretty bleak journey through 1968, but done with the customary skill and precision of Matt Weiner and his team.
TOMORROW: Another on-the-tube way of measuring my particular time lapse