PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

HawthoRNe: Series Premiere

Leigh H. Edwards

HawthoRNe offers a bracing combination of fast-paced professional crises and personal tensions.


Airtime: Tuesdays, 9pm ET
Cast: Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Vartan, Suleka Mathew, David Julian Hirsch, Christina Moore, Hannah Hodson
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: TNT
Air date: 2009-06-16

With HawthoRNe, Jada Pinkett Smith becomes another of TNT's strong women. Like Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer and Holly Hunter in Saving Grace, Smith brings movie star wattage to the small screen, playing a complex character who asserts her will in her own professional environment but finds her personal life harder to manage.

At Richmond Trinity Hospital, Christina Hawthorne (Smith) is the Chief Nursing Officer. She battles for her patients, explaining to one social worker, "I jeopardizes my job every day" for the good of her patients. Her foes include incompetent doctors who talk down to nurses, hospital administrators with their eyes on the bottom line, and the kind of bureaucratic red tape the health care system produces on a daily basis.

Still, she has her own issues. The premiere episode starts with her awake from insomnia, talking to her dead husband's ashes. We learn that he died a year ago from cancer, and she feels she was unable to save him. As she lies pondering the anniversary of his death with equal parts grief and steely resolve, she gets a frantic call from a cancer patient threatening suicide. She's the kind of nurse her patients can call at 5am, knowing she'll rush to rescue them.

While granting her heroic status, the show also considers serious social and political questions. On her way to work, Hawthorne pauses to speak to a homeless woman she knows, stationed outside the hospital door. As she appears disheveled, owing to her haste that morning, a new security guard assumes Hawthorne is homeless, and suggests she head to a shelter instead of the hospital. When she rushes past the guard anyway, pushing him out of her way, cops arrive on the scene to drag her away to face assault charges. Yes, she's a rule-breaker and advocate for the less fortunate. And yet, even after her harrowing morning, Hawthorne is all business, telling her nursing staff: "Let's just let it go and keep it moving."

When her friend, Chief of Surgery Tom Wakefield (Michael Vartan), tries to get Hawthorne to take a day off, she refuses, asserting, "This is home." That's not to say she doesn’t have a home, as well as a daughter Camille (Hannah Hobson). Her high school principal calls to say Camille is about to be dragged off for chaining herself to a vending machine that's about to be removed. Ostensibly, she's protesting lack of choice for students, but like her mother, she's driven by other concerns. This much is clear when she introduces her mother to the principal by saying, "My mom let my dad die." Both adults concur that detention might be good for Camille.

Hawthorne faces another sort of displacement with her mother-in-law, Amanda (Joanna Cassidy), a hospital board member. The women refuse to talk about how Hawthorne's husband died and Amanda's belief that she is "unreliable." All they can agree on is sharing custody of the dead man's ashes.

HawthoRNe's bracing combination of fast-paced professional crises and personal tensions is leavened by the banter she shares with fellow nurses and their somewhat comic dating tribulations. A male nurse, Ray Stein (David Julian Hirsh), faces his own trials in a female-dominated field, a storyline that makes for some fresh takes on hospital politics. While some subplots are trite (a nurse turns down a paramedic's romantic overtures, saying she's "damaged goods"), the premiere hums along whenever Hawthorne is driving it.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.