Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You Had Me At Vartanho - HawthoRNe - Pilot Review

HawthoRNe premieres tonight (Tuesday, June 16) at 9pm on TNT. Yes. the show is called HawthoRNe. That's how the website even writes it. How clever eh? It's about NURSES so they emphasize the RN in the title! Groan.

And as if there weren't enough medical shows already, here we need a new one to replace ER and to join Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Scrubs, House, Royal Pains.

Oh, but this one is specifically about NURSES. Cause it's time for them to STRIKE BACK! Between Nurse Jackie and this fall's Mercy, the RN's are taking over the tube.

Hawthorne also stars Jada Pinkett Smith in the title role as the hospital's chief nurse, a feisty no-nonsense single mother as no black woman can be (seriously, they might as well have given her the name Chaneequa instead of Christina). Granted, she's single because she's widowed and the pilot picks up exactly one year after her husband's death (who is presumed to be white since the mother-in-law seems to be a white socialite on the hostpial's board).

But whatever, this is Jada Pinkett Smith's foray into television and while the show is more of a throwback to the simpler plain drama days (it's not as melodramatic as Grey's which now is a good thing, nor is it as realistically brutal as ER, and instead, lands itself somewhere in the middle as a comforting middle of the road plain toast drama), Smith has surrounded herself with a great ensemble cast that suckered me in.

First off, I'm not a huge Jada Pinkett Smith fan. She's the black actress white people try to like but don't quite, but tolerate because she's married to Will Smith, a black actor white people love, at least when he sticks to big blockbuster action comedies. (For black actresses white people love, see Regina Taylor, Gabrielle Union, or Phylicia Rashad). Still, by the end of the pilot, I wasn't annoyed and actually quite liked Smith as Christina Hawthorne, a nurse with integrity fighting the good fight. (There's no darkness a la Edie Falco here, Smith's nurse is the unsung hero here that you can practically hear the angelic choir).

Michael Vartan (Alias) plays the chief doctor that oversees Hawthorne.

You had me at Vartanho!

Now, casting Michael Vartan and Jada Pinkett Smith together in one show seems intriguing, basically because I see them as two complete opposites. He's kinda the whitest guy who still comes off intelligent and sophisticated and not a redneck, while Jada Pinkett Smith, well, is a sassy no-nonsense black woman. So their scenes together are kinda neat.

Add in a couple of Canadians I love that deserve better careers and I'm actually being sold on this show that is entertaining, if a little stale.

The beautiful Suleka Mathew (Men In Trees) and the terrific (if obscure) David Julian Hirsh (Naked Josh) play fellow nurses, while Vanessa Lengies (American Dreams, yet another alum of Popular Mechanic for Kids that has already spawned Jay Baruchel, Tyler Kyte and Elisha Cuthbert) is the newbie nurse under their wings.

Now, Christina Moore plays the pretty blonde nurse who goes to great lengths to make her patients feel better... like a LOT better but it currently plays as one note and the character already bores me, as does David Julian Hirsh's Ray Stein's crush on her.

Suleka Mathew's Bobbie character comes with an added twist (which I won't reveal) but as always, Mathew plays it with such a straight and direct gracefulness that I'm thankful she seems to be Hawthorne's confident because I really want more of Bobbie (along with her personal life that gets a jolt in the pilot already with Kyle, a medic who pursues her (played by an actor I can't quite figure out right now but who is a hottie!)).

Also, bonus points for casting character actress Jillian Armenante as nurse Cheryl Brooks (even though she's not in the main cast but deserves to be).

At this point, I'm giving HawthoRNe ***1/2 (3.5 stars out of 5) mainly for its ensemble cast of actors who have always deserved bigger careers.

(Seriously if you think back to Alias days, who would have though Will Tippin's Bradley Cooper would have a bigger career than Michael Vartan. Not that Cooper doesn't deserve to, but who would have thought Will Tippin would prevail in the end?!)

The Cast of HawthoRNe:

Jada Pinkett Smith as Christina Hawthorne:

Michael Vartan as Dr. Tom Wakefield:

Suleka Mathew as Bobbie Jackson:

Hannah Hudson as Camille Hawthorne:

David Julian Hirsh as Ray Stein:

Christina Moore as Candy Sullivan:

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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