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 V.18 No.24 | June 11 - 17, 2009 

Idiot Box

’Night, Nurse

“HawthorRNe” on TNT

What TV needs now are more attractive psychic crimesolvers and more crusading nurses. Oh, and more Octomom coverage. While I can’t yet guarantee the first and third (although I’d pretty much bet the house on it), I can assure readers that they’ll be getting more hospital-based drama and romance courtesy of TNT’s new series “HawthorRNe.”

A mere week after Edie Falco made her debut in Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” Jada Pinkett Smith (she of “A Different World” and “I Married Will Smith” fame) dons the white smock to play Christina Hawthorne, a compassionate and headstrong chief nursing officer at the fictional Richmond Trinity Hospital in Virginia. Not only is she called upon to fight security guards, talk the occasional suicidal patient off a rooftop ledge at 5 a.m. and expose egotistical doctors’ near-fatal errors on a daily basis, she’s also saddled with a rebellious teen daughter. (Her hubby died of cancer, providing plenty of character-driven excuse for Christina’s crusading patients-first attitude.) Why, she’s like Florence Nightingale, Wonder Woman and those “bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never, ever let you forget you’re a man” women from the old Enjoli commercials all rolled into one spunky package.

Don’t think for a minute she won’t hesitate to violate protocol, defend her staff or stand up to administrators who seem to have forgotten a hospital’s true—hey, is that hunky Chief of Surgery Dr. Tom Wakefield (Michael Vartan from “Alias”)? He’s the oncologist who treated Christina’s husband. He’s dreamy, haunted and compassionate.

To give it some credit, “HawthoRNe” doesn’t dwell much on the medical minutiae. (I can’t be the only one sick of listening to attractive actors rattle off speeches about beta-blockers, intubation and metastatic soft-tissue sarcomas.) The show also doesn’t expend as much energy as, say, “Grey’s Anatomy” setting up a ludicrous combination of sexual pairings between castmembers. (Although the seeds are there, with enough good-looking supporting players to go around.)

Instead, the show devotes most of its time toward presenting its main character as an authority-bucking, results-getting female iconoclast—which puts her in fine company alongside TNT’s other authority-bucking, results-getting female iconoclasts (Kyra Sedgwick in “The Closer” and Holly Hunter in “Saving Grace”). While it’s great to see another strong female character on TV, “HawthoRNe” tries a little too hard. Our gal faces enough personal and professional crises in a single work day to fuel “ER” for a month. I’m surprised that—in addition to widow, mother, nurse, boss, union organizer, party planner, patients-rights crusader and prospective lover—this woman’s not a race car driver in her off time.

Prolific as they are, at least Christina’s conflicts make “HawthoRNe” a zippy hour. The trials and tribulations of her less interesting co-workers (A male nurse? Great story starter if this were 1979.) tend to bog things down. But if you like a healthy dose of female empowerment in prime time, “HawthorRNe” has got you covered ... in clichés, but still.

“HawthoRNe” debuts on TNT on Tuesday, June 16, at 7 p.m.

 
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