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At Richmond Trinity Hospital, Director Of Nursing Christina Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith) Is Locked In A Battle Against Forces Far Too Large For Any One Person To Handle. Whether Fighting To See That A Homeless Woman Is Treated Like A Human Being, Talking A Close Friend And Suicidal Cancer Patient Off A Ledge, Accommodating The Clashing Egos Of The Hospital’S Talented Doctors And Administrators, Or Managing A Nursing Staff Of Grizzled Veterans And Idealistic Young Rookies, She’S The Much-Needed Conscience For An Organization That All Too Often Forgets Whom It’S There To Serve. Still Learning To Cope With The Death Of Her Husband And Make Peace With Her Powerful And Grieving Mother-In-Law, Christina Looks To Balance Her Pressure Cooker Career With Raising A Smart But Willful Teenage Girl As She Tries To Change A Broken System, One Patient At A Time.
After memorable roles in films like Collateral and Set It Off, Jada Pinkett Smith earned the clout to top-line a TV series. If TNT's Hawthorne gets off to a hectic start, it calms down in the nine episodes to come. In the pilot, a patient jumps off the roof, a homeless mother attacks the chief nurse, her daughter (Hannah Hodson) stages a protest, and her mother-in-law (Joanna Cassidy) insults her. Fortunately, the jumper (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's D. B. Woodside), her late husband's best friend, survives. Christina's colleagues at Richmond Trinity have concerns of their own: Kelly (Vanessa Lengies) lets people walk all over her, Candy (Christina Moore) has boundary issues, Ray (David Julian Hirsh) can't catch a break, and Bobby (Suleka Mathew), who uses a prosthetic leg, has qualms about dating. As in Grey's Anatomy, drama commingles with comedy, but with less bed hopping and repetitive dialogue. Some of the humor works (the banter between Ray and Candy); some doesn't (the sleazy payroll officer). Hawthorne distinguishes itself most when the nurses advocate for their patients, pitting them against doctors, social workers, and administrators who make fateful decisions without the same degree of familiarity (Alias's Michael Vartan plays the chief of surgery). A better name for the series, the product of Providence creator John Masius, might be Rebel Nurse. As written, Hawthorne's tireless crusader doesn't ring completely true, but Pinkett Smith, the daughter of a head nurse, invests her with the believable heart and backbone fans have come to expect--and Mathew offers an equally empathetic foil. Notable first-season guests include The Wire's Wendell Pierce and Scrubs' Judy Reyes, while extras range from six blink-and-you'll-miss-'em featurettes to an interview with Pinkett Smith, who praises nurses as "everyday people who do extraordinary things." --Kathleen C. Fennessy