- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2009

12 M for Jay’s finale

Jay Leno’s final “Tonight” show drew nearly 12 million viewers but fell well short of his most-watched night or Johnny Carson’s farewell.

Mr. Leno wrapped up his 17-year run on “The Tonight Show” on May 29 with new host Conan O’Brien and James Taylor as guests.

It proved to be Mr. Leno’s seventh-highest-rated “Tonight” telecast, with 11.9 million viewers. The highest-rated? Mr. Leno’s 1993 show marking the finale of the sitcom “Cheers” was watched by more than 22 million, Associated Press reports.

Mr. Leno’s 1992 debut on “Tonight,” when he replaced Mr. Carson, drew 16.1 million viewers. Mr. Carson, however, wrapped his three decades on the late-night show with an audience of 41 million, AP said.

Still, Mr. Leno’s final “Tonight” audience was more than double his current season average of 5.2 million viewers.

Swayze’s show ends

It looks as though A&E’s “The Beast” won’t be returning for a second season, Variety reports.

Sources told the trade publication that the Patrick Swayze drama about a rogue FBI agent in Chicago has been canceled after 13 episodes. The final installment aired April 23.

However, A&E told Variety that no decision has been made.

Ratings were soft for the series, which got off to a rough start when Mr. Swayze was diagnosed with cancer. In January, he was scheduled to appear at the Television Critics Association to promote the show, but instead he was hospitalized with pneumonia, Variety says.

“The Beast” also starred Travis Fimmel, Kevin J. O’Connor, Larry Gilliard Jr. and Lindsay Pulsipher.

There was speculation at the end of the season that because of Mr. Swayze’s illness, a new lead would have to take over if the show were renewed. Lou Diamond Phillips came aboard for a guest role for episode seven, but sources say he wasn’t considered as a headliner.

One of the actors on the show was put on a contract hold through August in case of a renewal. Representatives for several actors still haven’t heard whether the series is being picked up or canceled and are trying to juggle their schedules as job offers come in.

Nurse Jackie

If you thought Gregory House was a naughty savior, wait until you meet Jackie Peyton.

Of course, some say, a woman can get away with a lot more than a man. On the other hand, “Nurse Jackie” — bowing tonight at 10:30 (following the fifth-season premiere of “Weeds”) — will air on premium cable’s Showtime, while “House” appears on the broadcast network Fox, which is far less explicit.

Edie Falco, known best for her role as mob wife Carmela Soprano on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” returns to episodic television as the title character, a medical practitioner who has a lot in common with Dr. House. Both have a fondness for prescription painkillers, and they’re both seemingly smarter than everyone around them.

Both also have complicated personal lives.

Yet “Nurse Jackie” isn’t a female version of “House.” Clocking in at just a half-hour, it has simply no room for involved stories about what’s wrong with the patients. Unlike “House,” the new show focuses on how the New York City nurse approaches them — and the other people in her life.

From the very first moments, we see how Jackie (three-time Emmy winner Miss Falco) gets through her day. “Just a little bump to get me up and running,” she narrates as she snorts Oxycontin, Vicodin or whatever else she can get from Eddie (Paul Schulze), the pharmacy technician with whom she has trysts in the supply room. (“A little something for your back?” he says in pillow talk afterward. “That’s sweet,” a blissed-out Jackie responds.)

Jackie might be a nurse, but she has more brains than Dr. Cooper (Peter Facinelli), the pretty-boy doctor to whom she’s often assigned. He dismisses her when she insists a patient with a broken leg has something more serious wrong with him. The man later dies, and Jackie seeks redemption in a troubling way. “It may have been a shame, but it will not be a waste, that I promise,” she declares as she forges the man’s name on the organ-donor line of his license.

No opportunity is wasted in this half-hour. Jackie’s decision to forge the dead man’s name leads her to get to know his girlfriend a little better as the episode progresses.

That certainly isn’t the only ethical violation Jackie will make on this day. An ambassador’s secretary assaults a prostitute, whom Jackie treated, and will get off scot-free — until Jackie gets to him when he seeks treatment for his own injuries.

“Nurse Jackie” is a welcome return to television for Miss Falco, and there’s no trace here of the hesitant Carmela Soprano. The actress’s big hair is gone, with her locks shorn down to a minimum. Yet the difference is even more apparent in her movements.

The series turns out to be the perfect vehicle for Miss Falco to prove she can carry a show on her own. This is an actress who demands to be watched — and tonight’s pilot episode holds some surprises at the end that are so good, many viewers no doubt will return to see how they develop the following week.

“Nurse Jackie” might not be the most realistic medical show on television. (Is there really a doctor who wears Manolo Blahniks on duty?) Yet with Miss Falco’s great talents and her character’s fascinatingly thorny life, it certainly has the potential to compete with the most intriguing. Don’t be fooled by its half-hour length — this is no sitcom, but a dark drama masquerading as comedy.

Kelly Jane Torrance

Also Monday …

American Experience (9 p.m., WETA-Channel 26) — “The Living Weapon,” tonight’s installment of the celebrated PBS series, explores the history of America’s biological-weapons program. It began in 1942 with a group that worked parallel to the Manhattan Project, and it continued to 1969, when President Nixon terminated it.

Weeds (10 p.m., Showtime) — Announced last season, Nancy Botwin’s (Mary Louise Parker) pregnancy bombshell continues to shake the Botwin household. In tonight’s premiere (“Wonderful Wonderful”) all the people close to Nancy analyzes just how the pregnancy will affect them.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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