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Showtime’s ‘Nurse Jackie’ Increases the Dosage for Second Season

NEW YORK - "Nurse Jackie" is ready for another round in the ER.

The dark comedy starring Edie Falco ("The Sopranos") returns for a second season Monday (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/PT), which picks up a few months after her duplicitous world began to unravel.

Her boyfriend/drug dispenser, hospital pharmacist Eddie (Paul Schulze), lost his job, discovered Jackie had a family and befriended her unaware husband as a form of revenge. But all is calm.

"You would have thought a more profound lesson might have been learned," Falco says during a break between filming scenes on the hospital set here. "But for the most part it takes her very little time to kind of get back to where she was. ... Sometimes the most dangerous addicts are the ones who are high-functioning. The lucky ones are the ones who fall apart, who still have time to fix their lives."

But those don't make such interesting TV. "Everything about drug abuse and substance abuse and alcoholism is so repentant and recovery driven," says executive producer Liz Brixius.

"Anything you see on TV is all about how horrible it is and there's light at the end of the tunnel, and we already all know that message. So what is compelling about drug addiction if you're just an everyday, ordinary person? How does it fit into your life? Eventually, Jackie is going to have to face the music. She doesn't have to right now."

Instead, she's fending off romantic interest from cocky Dr. Fitch Cooper (Peter Facinelli), trying to keep Eddie away from her family, finding new ways to feed her pill habit and treating patients. A late-season episode concerns an ex-football player with early-stage dementia from concussions.

Although the juggling act intensifies, the hospital world remains intact. Zoey (Merritt Wever), Jackie's eager protegee, has become "a lot more comfortable and takes more initiative," Wever says. "She's still enthusiastic, but she's gotten her bearings a bit more. She's not just looking around wide-eyed."

As for Fitch, Jackie "kind of broke his heart a little bit," says executive producer Linda Wallem. "He fell for her and he was too dumb to see that she was deflecting him. He gets corrected early on in the season and is not happy about it."

Popping up in guest roles are Julia Ormond, Harvey Fierstein, Marion Ross and Barbara Barrie.

Male nurse Mo-Mo (Haaz Sleiman) has departed for a better job, replaced by Sam (Arjun Gupta), a temp (and fellow drug abuser) featured in one episode last season. He's now sober, adding tension to their relationship. The role of Thor (Stephen Wallem) expands, and his diabetic condition - Wallem also has the disease - complicates his work. And Jackie continues to lean on pal Dr. O'Hara (Eve Best).

Doctors and nurses are often "looked at as God-like figures," but "our occupation doesn't take away our flaws as human beings," Stephen Wallem says. No matter that medical shows so often emphasize consequences of bad behavior. "It's such a concept left over from Bette Davis movies of the '40s, where the adulteress has to have her family killed in a bus accident."

As the season opens, Jackie halfheartedly tries to "straighten things out," Falco says. But she suspects it's "not the lowest she can go."

Says Brixius: "She's not willing or wanting to be caught, and she's a juggler of secrets, which is obviously not maintainable. And that's the fun of Season 2 - watching her really have all these knives in the air."

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