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Sad and Happyish.... - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Sad and Happyish....
Showtime Sunday nights now feature an end and a beginning: the final season of Nurse Jackie, and the first installments of Happyish, a rather bizarre take on life and advertising that sums up the former in its title and the latter in three words spoken by its star, Steve Coogan:

"Fuck Mad Men!"

I'll get to Thom in a moment. Before that, though, the first Three of Jacks:

Not much buzz about this show being in its final season. So little, we missed its return by a week, doubling up the first two last Monday night and catching up to Sunday's third ep last night. Jackie, left under arrest and in need to detox at the end of last year, has been sprung, cleaned out, and, through a couple of nice moves by Sister D.X. Machina, quickly restored visitation with her kids and got her job back.

Well, "a" job. And more of a long-o pronunciation of "Job," since her still-boss and former friend Gloria has determined to make her return a living hell. For Jackie, and her viewers, the worst is not the petty shaming that comes with busting her down to bedpan duty, or putting her protege Zoey in charge of collecting (under visual supervision) her daily drug-testing pee samples. Rather, it was the well-timed plotting of patient after patient who needed HER medical skills and observations, where Gloria made it a fireable offense to offer them even under another professional's supervision. The episode ends with a cadaver- one brought to death by the incompetent diagnostic and treating ability of everyone in the hospital other than Bedpan Jacks- but once that patient starts assuming room temperature, she is then someone Jackie can touch. And talk to. And mourn.

Previews of next week already reveal how the writers intend to push this envelope. It's painful to watch, and yet virtually impossible not to, if you've come to care about these characters over the past six years.

There are other storylines that began or continued to develop, some character-driven with another just introduced that seemed very Late St. Elsewhere-ish. There's also an Igor who lives in the basement who has potential to be fun.

Ten to go. Or is it nine?


And then in with the new.

The reluctant star of Happyish, transplanted Brit Steve Coogan, was initially best known to us from his serious turn opposite Dame Judi in Philhomena (a film he also co-wrote). More recently, we got to know his more comic side from the series of Trip mostly-mockumentaries he did with Rob Brydon. They riffed through the North of England and much of Italy, often doing Imitation Showdowns of everyone from Michael Caine to Al Pacino.

None of that in his premiere here. (Oddly, it was the preceding half hour of Jackie that broke the tension with Eddie and Coop doing Dueling Brandos as one begged the other to be his kid's Godfadda. Peter Facinelli also got in what I think was his first outright vampire joke about himself in six-plus seasons.) Rather, for all its laughs and its manifest weirdness, there was a pervading sadness in the Happyish picture. That, of course, accounts for the reluctance in Coogan's starring:

The part was originally written, or least cast, for Philip Seymour Hoffman.

At least one reviewer has speculated over whether the show's tone and inherent (if not actual) drugginess may have contributed to PSH's relapse and death. Coogan brings at least an extra amping of comic relief to having to replace the man (who, even in his more comic roles was always more dry than extreme in his humor). I don't know, for instance, if I could picture Hoffman, um,[Spoiler (click to open)]banging a Keebler elf,but Coogan pulls it off.

Neither actor could ever overshadow the influence of Shalom Auslander, writer and showrunner of the piece. I knew him best previously from This American Life bits, particularly the one transcribed in this article about the pain he endured because "my parents named me God." His premise here has quite a bit of Ira Glassian little-too-cool-for-schoolness about it, from the crazy credits giving star billing to "Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus And Alois Alzheimer" to the fantasy interlude involving sex with a cookie that doesn't even have a hole in the middle.

(Wait. That is not a spoiler. How can it be? You have to see it to understand it to spoil it, and I can't and it therefore ain't.)

Lots of it is also hard to watch- but it has enough potential to see where future top stars Marc Chagall, Abuela and Adolf Hitler take it.
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