Review: Hawthorne 1×1

Another drama about caring nurses

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, TNT

There’s a sudden rush to get dramas about nurses onto our screens. We’ve already had Nurse Jackie on Showtime, Mercy is coming to NBC in the Fall and now we have TNT lifting the lid off Hawthorne.

Unlike Nurse Jackie, Hawthorne is one of those caring, sharing angelic types of nurses, who do their best in terrible circumstances, never doing anything bad. And much like its eponymous heroine, the show might have its heart in the right place, but it’s also very, very dull.

Jada Pinkett Smith (The Women, The Matrix trilogy) is the latest talented actress to join TNT’s line-up of strong, complex female characters, following in the footsteps of Kyra Sedgwick on The Closer and Holly Hunter of Saving Grace. This summer, Pinkett Smith executive-produces and stars in HAWTHORNE, a character-driven drama series about a nurse who is a true everyday hero.

Pinkett Smith plays Christina Hawthorne, a compassionate and headstrong Chief Nursing Officer heading up a group of dedicated nurses at Richmond Trinity Hospital who spend long days and nights on the hospital’s front lines. Hawthorne is the kind of nurse you want on your side when you or someone you love is in the hospital. She is the kind of nurse who fights for her patients and doesn’t let them slip through the cracks. When necessary, she takes on doctors and administrators who are overworked, distracted or just unable to see the human being behind the hospital chart.

Whether showing humanity to a homeless woman, trying to talk a suicidal cancer patient off a ledge or exposing a doctor’s near-fatal error, Hawthorne will do everything in her power to help her patients. When a patient’s care is at risk, she doesn’t hesitate to violate protocol, defend her staff or stand up to administrators who seem to have forgotten a hospital’s true purpose.

But the long days at the hospital and Hawthorne’s intense focus on helping others take a toll on her personal life. Christina is recently widowed – her husband died one year ago after a battle with cancer, leaving her to raise a smart, rebellious teen-age daughter on her own. Hawthorne is still coming to terms with losing her husband, finding a way to balance her career with her equally important role as a single parent, and finding the time to take care of someone who always seems to fall through the cracks – herself.

Joining Pinkett Smith in HAWTHORNE is Michael Vartan (Alias) as Dr. Tom Wakefield, the oncologist who treated Christina’s husband and serves as Chief of Surgery for the hospital. The cast also includes Suleka Mathew (Men in Trees) as Bobbie Jackson, a fellow nurse and one of Hawthorne’s best friends; David Julian Hirsh (Lovebites) as Ray Stein, a nurse struggling with being accepted in a female-dominated profession; Christina Moore (90210) as Candy Sullivan, a nurse with a unique sense of duty; and Hannah Hodson (TNT’s The Ron Clark Story) as Camille, Hawthorne’s daughter. In addition, special guest star Joanna Cassidy (Six Feet Under) portrays Amanda, Hawthorne’s mother-in-law, who also happens to be a member of the hospital board.

Is it any good?
Hawthorne wants to be a tough, gritty, cutting edge kind of a show, just like the rest of its TNT stablemates. If it had come out five years ago, it might have been.

But now it just feels like a show that we’ve seen done better elsewhere. Now, while it’s good to see women front and centre – black women, in fact, and with a strong supporting cast of black actors as well – Hawthorne doesn’t really do much except get our heroine maltreated by various people and the system to show us just how strong and brave she is, and just how bad and useless they are.

To its credit, the show never has Jada waving her finger or doing a Sasha Fierce, but that doesn’t excuse it from being dull, like a compressed Lifetime movie designed to show the viewer just how Strong She Can Be, too. Despite the show having a massively involved backstory for Hawthorne and just about every other character, these don’t feel like real people, just plot requirements. Dialogue is mostly utilitarian, and there was never a point in the story where I didn’t see what was coming or where I felt I was seeing anything new.

There were a few points where you might want to self-harm at the stupidity of it all, but only a few. There’s some truly diabolical acting, surprisingly from Michael Vartan of Alias among others, and the theme tune and incidental music is so unexciting, it’s probably by a band called Nice ‘n’ EZ. It’s not truly cringeworthy, but it has at least been lightly basted with the rubbish brush.

Here’s a sneak peek for you to have a gander at: