Skip to main content

Nursing a Broken Heart: An Advance Review of TNT's "Hawthorne"

Probably not the best time to launch a medical drama based around a plucky and opinionated nurse.

After all, Showtime just last week launched Nurse Jackie, its own series about, you got it, a plucky and opinionated nurse in a comedy series that's intelligent, gripping, and utterly unforgettable.

The same, sadly, can't be said for TNT's Hawthorne (I flat out refuse to capitalize the RN--for registered nurse, natch--in the series' title), which launches tonight on the cabler. Created by John Masius (St. Elsewhere, Dead Like Me), Hawthorne pales in comparison to the similarly-themed Nurse Jackie. It also tries to take a more serious tack with its handling of professional nurses than the Edie Falco-led Showtime series and yet feels all the more tired and staid as a result.

Jada Pinkett Smith (The Matrix) stars here as Christina Hawthorne, the widowed Chief Nursing Officer at Richmond Trinity hospital who has to contend with a headstrong daughter (Hannah Hodson), a brutal mother-in-law (Six Feet Under's Joanna Cassidy), and a slew of medical crises while also not being taken seriously by the hospital's doctors, even though she knows more about the patients than they do. In other words: we've seen all of this before.

Much of the pilot episode's conflict stems from the fact that Hawthorne and her daughter are trying to cope with the one-year anniversary of her husband David's death from cancer. And Hawthorne can't forget how things played out, especially given that she has to work each day right next to his oncologist Dr. Tom Wakefield (Alias' Michael Vartan), who serves as the Chief of Surgery at the hospital. Complicating things further are the fact that her husband's mother Amanda (Cassidy) is on the board of the hospital and she and Hawthorne agreed to exchange David's ashes on the one-year anniversary of his death... and David's terminally ill friend tries to kill himself by jumping off the hospital's roof.

While Hawthorne's personal life is falling apart at the seams, she strives to run her nurses with a firm but fair hand. Bobbie Jackson (Men in Trees's Suleka Mathew) is Hawthorne's closest friend who conceals a prosthetic leg underneath her scrubs; Ray Stein (David Julian Hirsh) attempts to rise above the constant derision he receives for being a male nurse; and Candy Sullivan (90210's Christina Moore) likes to give her patients--especially the good-looking ones, a little extra TLC.

Hawthorne herself is brittle and abrasive and given to overwrought internal narration as well as petty acts of rebellion. (See what she does with some of David's ashes for an example.) Yet as much as Pinkett Smith tries to make her sympathetic and driven, Hawthorne seems like any number of other TV nurses: determined, overworked, and underpaid. Not to mention in touch with the humanity of her patients, which is something that the hospital's doctors have forgotten in an age of profits and bottom lines.

The result is overly earnest without breaking any new ground. Hawthorne feels like a zillion other medical series that have come and gone and its "time heals all wounds" message feels greeting-card faux-heavy in a genre that has new competition from the aforementioned Nurse Jackie. Ultimately, this is a summer series that definitely can be skipped despite its efforts to inject heart into the medical drama.

Hawthorne premieres tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on TNT.


Sue said…
Well, I watched anyway despite your review, and I liked it. However, I must note that I have not seen Nurse Jackie, so I can't compare the two.

I was fully expecting to dislike it, but the cast worked well together (ok, the Candy Sullivan character can go). I kind of see it as a nurses version of "ER". Yes, it wasn't riveting nor compelling, but it wasn't boring either.

I'll watch the next episode and then decide if I am going to continue for the rest of the season.
Dani In NC said…
When I saw the previews for Hawthorne, the first thought I had was that TNT beat NBC to the gate. They have a show with a similar setup called Mercy that is coming out in March 2010. The preview for Mercy looks like an edgier version of Hawthorne.
Anonymous said…
Just caught the last part of the show after my evening shift. What I saw looked like a pretty tight medical drama.
The review says
"Hawthorne seems like any number of other TV nurses: determined, overworked, and underpaid. Not to mention in touch with the humanity of her patients, which is something that the hospital's doctors have forgotten in an age of profits and bottom lines.
Hello? Let's delete a word here and expand "any number of TV nurses" to "any number of nurses". Does a reviewer ever say "any number of doctors can run a hypovolemia code in a busy ER and call for 2 units of O negative STAT", "any number of TV carpenter guys can use a nail gun"?
Is it because most nurses are women, or is it because people can't accept that we really do those things, routinely?
Next review focus on the acting, the story, the production values, but don't tell me it's boring because it's just about someone doing their job.
Bore me with what you do for a living?
Yeah, it was an extra fun night.
Annie said…
Anonymous, did you even read the review? Because that's not at all what he said or even implied. If you're going to quote someone out of context at least have the courtesy to put the whole quote.

And yeah your comment bored me as much as this show did.

Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it

BuzzFeed: "The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now"

The CBS legal drama, now in its sixth season, continually shakes up its narrative foundations and proves itself fearless in the process. Spoilers ahead, if you’re not up to date on the show. At BuzzFeed, you can read my latest feature, " The Good Wife Is The Best Show On Television Right Now," in which I praise CBS' The Good Wife and, well, hail it as the best show currently on television. (Yes, you read that right.) There is no need to be delicate here: If you’re not watching The Good Wife, you are missing out on the best show on television. I won’t qualify that statement in the least — I’m not talking about the best show currently airing on broadcast television or outside of cable or on premium or however you want to sandbox this remarkable show. No, the legal drama is the best thing currently airing on any channel on television. That The Good Wife is this perfect in its sixth season is reason to truly celebrate. Few shows embrace complexity and risk-taking in t