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Clear your schedule: Return of Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara, debuts of Dana Delany’s Body of Proof, Chaos, The Kennedys, The Borgias

In television on 03/28/2011 at 3:13 pm

It’s a big week for TV. The dark comedies Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara return to The Movie Network starting tonight, March 28 and I blather a bit about both a couple of paragraphs further down.

But before that, here’s what else is new this week so you can get your maid to set the DVR or, so cute!, VCR so you won’t miss a second.

1. Mildred Pierce, the five-hour miniseries launched with Parts 1 & 2 on Sunday, March 27 but it repeats almost every day (though not often during prime time) before Part 3 premieres Sunday, April 3 at 9 p.m ET on HBO Canada. Click here for a list of repeat broadcast times of Parts 1 & 2, courtesy of zap2it.com.

2. Dana Delany returns to series TV as a medical examiner with as much brilliance as personal baggage (She’s House, except all her patients start out dead!). Body of Proof debuts Tuesday, March 29, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC and Citytv. Watch for it also on Sunday, April 3. Not sure which is the regular spot. Will get back to you when I do my I-haven’t-seen-the-pilot-but-that-won’t-stop-me-from-reviewing-it. BTW, Delany will be live tweeting during the Tuesday broadcast. Her Twitter address is @DanaDelany.

3. CIA agents gone rogue are the main characters in the new comic crime series Chaos, set to debut Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CBS and Global. I will also blind review this show later this week, but what’s not to love with a cast that includes Freddy Rodriguez (Ugly Betty, Six Feet Under), Eric Close (Without a Trace), Tim Blake Nelson (Syriana, Minority Report, Leaves of Grass) and Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show, Worst Week).

4. The Borgias is a historical drama starring Jeremy Irons, Colme Feore and more impressive thespians. It debuts Sunday, April 3 at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo and is described this way by Bravo: “Inspiring both Machiavelli’s The Prince and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, THE BORGIAS are “The Original Crime Family.””

5. A little more than a week down the road, The Kennedys, the miniseries starring Greg Kinnear at JFK and weathering a lot of controversy so far, debuts in Canada on April 10 at 9 p.m. ET on History Television. More on that later.

Now, about Jackie and Tara tonight, Monday, March 28, on The Movie Network starting at 10 p.m. ET:

Since tonight marks the debuts of Season 3 for both half-hour acid comedies, I am assuming you know what’s what.

The United States of Tara (Mondays at 10:30 p.m. ET on The Movie Network), starring Toni Collette as the title character (or characters) with dissociative identity disorder, is the series that I shamefully all but dropped in Season 2. I will therefore show unusual restraint and not bluff my way through previewing Season 3. You are welcome. Here is what the press kit has to say:

“Season 3 begins with Tara returns to the family’s Labour Day barbecue, after a transition to Buck leads her on an unexpected mission. Kate (Brie Larson) is trying desperately to plan the next phase of her life, one that doesn not include collect or living with her very pregnant Aunt Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt), who, in her own way, avoids committing to Neil (Patton Oswalt). Meanwhile, student filmmakers Marshall (Keir Gilchrist) and Lionel. Trane make their first committment together when they purchase a new video camero for film class. All the college talk makes Tara realize how badly she wanted to finish the last few credits of her own degree and so, with the help of Ted Mayo (Michael Hitchcock), Tara enrolss in a few classes, including a psychology course taught by the charismatic Dr. Jack Hattaras (Eddie Izzard). But Max (John Corbett) is fearbful that the stress fo college will cause Tara to transition… or worse.”

I really am ashamed for having dropped this show (for lack of time, alas) because I really love all the characters, from the leads to the kids  played by Gilchrist and Larson. And the addition of Eddie Izzard, well I will make time to speedwatch Season 2.

Nurse Jackie (Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on The Movie Network) was another habit I dropped in Season 2, but not for lack of time. I found the hybrid family drama and workplace comedy built around nurse-addict Jackie (Edie Falco) had lost all the frenzied momentum of the black-comic heartbreaking first season. Season 3, I am happy to report, is a much more satisfying package. I have all 12 episodes and couldn’t stop myself from bingeing on four episodes back to back but have now put on the breaks. I want this to last.

Without spoiling anything, Season 3 picks up at the exact second in the Season 2 finale, that Jackie escapes into the bathroom from an intervention by her husband and doctor best friend, facing herself in the bathroom mirror and laughing savagely at the possibility of going into a treatment project. Over the next four episodes, nothing changes and everything. There is a very tense veneer of normal at home and at work. Changes are afoot, none of them gamechanging, but the pressure is mounting on Jackie and her lying, addict-desperate bastardly ways. The “normal” at work has some of those tensions — her relationships with O’Hara and Eddie, some of Jackie’s secrets revealed — but provides welcome gusts of comedy with a fresh streak of crazy by the series wonderful supporting cast (hello Anna Deveare Smith and her barely contained volcano administrator Akalitis). Threaded among those funny moments are patients and other … visitors. Pay attention there. The whining tension builds slowly. If the promise of the first four episodes continues, this will be a damn fine season of TV. If, as in Season 2, the series seems stuck on repeating Jackie’s addict drama without advancing the stories or revealing new bits about characters, then I will bail again. Nurse Jackie has a tricky challenge. It banks on the crazy life of an addict and the crash of hope for clarity and release against the terror of living chemical-free and pain-filled. But this is a TV show and not real life. Real life for addicts is very sad. A TV show has to tell a story with intriguing characters or work skillfully against those narrative expectations. I hope Nurse Jackie is up to the challenge in Season 3 as it was in Season 1.

As always, I’ll end this way: But enough about what I think. What is your take on Mildred Pierce, Nurse Jackie and / or The United States of Tara?

I wanna know. Leave a comment here or click here to email me (you’ll get an “on vacation” reply, but I’ll get back to you soon).

Denise Duguay

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