The buzz is on 30 minutes
New US cable dramas are reaffirming the might of the 30 minute format.
The buzz on new American shows is all being directed towards cable shows Nurse Jackie and Hung right now. Each series has humor, drama and emotional moments.
Nurse Jackie features Sopranos actress Edie Falco as a no-fuss emergency room nurse. The premiere was Showtime’s most-successful premiere ever and the network immediately picked up the series for a second season. At just 30 minutes it follows the recent success of In Treatment‘s slimmer format.
NY Times said:
“Nurse Jackie” doesn’t look like the average network medical drama, but it does follow the formula of many premium cable shows, taking a knowing and at times dark, sardonic look at the classic themes of love, life and work. It has one of the most talented actresses on television as its lead, and yet over all “Nurse Jackie” is surprisingly, and disconcertingly, off key. This is a drama draped in black humor that doesn’t know when to be funny.
But Variety said:
“Nurse Jackie” administers an odd cocktail — one that starts out potent but loses some fizz with each successive round. “The Sopranos'” Edie Falco is clearly the straw that stirs the drink as a cranky, pill-popping nurse surrounded by an assortment of eccentric characters. Yet after the promising, twisty premiere (which makes especially good use of the theme from “Valley of the Dolls”), the series becomes hard-to-define in mostly the wrong ways — a half-hour that’s not particularly funny, simply dark and bleak, yet without much high-stakes drama. Alas, even Showtime can’t quite live by “quirky” alone.
Then there’s HBO’s Hung, at a more conventional 60 minutes, starring Thomas Jane as a well-endowed struggling high school basketball coach who resorts to prostitution. It also stars Anne Heche.
LA Times said:
For a half-hour HBO show about male prostitution, “Hung” tends to keep its clothes on and move v-e-r-y s s-l-o-w-l-y. Lipkin and Burson appear more interested in the pitted, shrunken but still heroically vital human spirit than naked butts and intercourse. Which is admirable, but if you’re looking for the male version of, say, “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” or even the raciness of “Weeds,” look elsewhere. Sex in early episodes of “Hung” is surprisingly non-graphic and certainly non-erotic. The nakedness is more of an emotional sort. Heche is, as usual, tightly wound and slightly mad, though watching her attempt to connect with her children — Damon is a goth, Darby is dating a loser and both are maestros of not-quite-sullen silence — is a writhe-in-your-seat pleasure.
Hollywood Reporter said:
The show is pretty darned funny, especially once you get past the 45-minute pilot and into the half-hour regular episodes (smaller is better, actually). The leads are a classic screwball couple, washed out and made hangdog by the system but fighting back in their own uniquely American fashion. Co-creator Dmitry Lipkin (“The Riches”) again raises his unique periscope to peer into the darker corners of suburbia, crafting characters worth following even at their most repulsive.
When the series was announced, “Hung” sounded like a one-note, made-for-pay-TV joke — indulging director Alexander Payne and company to engage in a bit of “Boogie Nights” humor. Yet the series that emerges proves not only timely in its look at a member of Detroit’s disappearing middle class but, in addition to being wryly funny, shows off an unexpected organ — the one generally associated with love, not lust. Boasting fine performances by Thomas Jane and Jane Adams, coupled with sharp writing, “Hung” really does offer those willing to pay for it (HBO, that is) a bountiful package.