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TV Tonight: Hawthorne in My Side

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Many reviews of Jada Pinkett Smith’s nurse drama Hawthorne, debuting tonight on TNT, mention that it’s difficult not to compare it, unfavorably, with Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. This is understandable, but it is unfair to this new series. Hawthorne would be terrible if Nurse Jackie never existed. It would be awful entirely on its own. Give it some credit, please. 

I haven’t done a proper review of the show, so consider this simply a warning: the show is as as dated and treacly as you may have guessed if you’ve seen previews. Hawthorne, which the network renders “HawthoRNe,” stars Pinkett Smith as the title character, a head nurse without a single worldly flaw except for being too damn selfless and dedicated. (As someone commented to me, if you are choosing your title character’s name to make sure it has the letter string RN in it, it’s a good sign your series is lousy.)

The pilot features melodramas involving a homeless woman, a deceased relative, a hospitalized soldier, a suicidal patient and an abandoned baby, all of which resolve as mawkishly as you might guess. As Hawthorne, Pinkett Smith is too generically valiant and photogenically deep-feeling to connect with as a person, while Michael Vartan—whom I liked in Alias—is rendered into forgettable pretty wallpaper as Hawthorne’s M.D. counterpart on the staff.

I could go on, but oh! it hurts my heart. On the bright side, only six days until the next Nurse Jackie.