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Televison Review: HawthoRNe is Not Good, Not Black

16 June 2009 19 Comments

Do you like or even love Hugh Laurie’s House? Have you had alternating crushes on J.D. and Turk from Scrubs these past few years, or just enjoyed the quirky humor of the show? Did you watch E.R. way longer than most people, and even then wonder in amazement that it was still on the air? In fact, did you read my review of Showtime’s Nurse Jackie last week and then proceed to watch and enjoy an original show about medical professionals? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is likely that any attempt to watch TNT’s HawthoRNe will land you a few channels away at NBC’s tried and true Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit, which also airs on Tuesdays at 9:00 PM. And if you choose L&O over HawthoRNe don’t feel guilty about not “supporting” black television; aside from being not a very good show, HawthorRNe is not at all a black show, either.


TNT has built some great strong female characters including Brenda Lee Johnson on The Closer (which I love) and Grace from Saving Grace (which I’ve politely passed on). Jada Pinkett-Smith’s role as Christina Hawthorne, a widowed single mother and nurse, is no exception to that girl power theme, but what Pinkett’s character is lacking that the current leading ladies of TNT have is that certain je ne sais quoi. She lacks quirks, panache, and genuine personality, essential elements of character development that have been replaced by the earnest hand-wringing and heart-wrenching inevitable in the ol’ “nurses care so much that it hurts,” concept. Unfortunately, the nursing profession alone cannot carry a character or show, which does not bode well for HawthorNE. The average television viewer in 2009 is barely fazed by a code blue cardiac arrest or a banged up accident victim in a neck brace gushing with blood – we’re desensitized to the realities (or dramatizations) of hospital life by now and need something more to entertain us. HawthoRNe misses viewer sophistication levels by a long shot with faux-sensational topics like interracial relationships and male nurses, and further rehashes basic themes like dealing with loss and raising teenagers with little revision to anything we’ve seen before. Also, I need to mention my irritation at former cutie Michael Vartan’s overly Botox’d face and the cheesiness of the RN capitalization in the show’s title because those two unfortunate misses were the final straw.


Jada is black Hollywood royalty after all, so can’t I say something positive? As an actress Pinkett is consistent – she’s never amazing and never bad, and her performance in the HawthoRNe premiere is no exception. Her supporting cast is also just fine, with bright spots Suleka Matthew as an atractive Indian doctor with a prosthetic leg, guest Aisha Hinds as a homeless mother with a heart of gold, and a drive-by-performance by Joanna Cassidy as Pinkett’s mother-in-law. I’m sure that there will be a number of fun-to-watch actors on the show in the future, but there is one important thing to remember: this is not a black show. Not only could Christina Hawthorne have been played by any actress of any color, the story itself does nothing to deal with her experience as a black woman, and her family life – in spite of the fact that her deceased husband was white and her daughter is biracial – is further standard fare. We’re at the point in black culture where simply hoping to see a brown face on television won’t cut it. Should we really get excited just because a black actress with as much pull as Jada is getting work, even if lacks any black narrative whatsoever? I have to say no. HawthoRNE is far from a triumph for black television or black Hollywood, so don’t feel badly about not “supporting” it if you realize for yourself that it’s just more of the same.

If you missed the oh-so-thick promotion that TNT’s been laying on, check out the HawthoRNe sneak peak and/or try to catch the full episode in re-runs.


  • aliya said:

    *looks around the Internets to see if anyone is looking*

    *checks to see if her comments here will be Googleable*

    *checks to see if any editors she writes for are commenting*



    Is this thing on?

    HawthoRNe stinks. Full stop. Jada is trying way too hard. She gets a twinkle in her eye too often. I’m over the teenaged daughter. I hate the medical backdrop. An I hate how every one was blatantly BLAMING HER FOR HER HUSBAND’S DEATH. Like that’s even remotely okay.

    I haven’t liked Jada’s acting since A Different World.

    There I said it.

    *this comment will self-destruct*

  • slb79 said:

    i’m with y’all. the only thing i’ve liked jada in post-ADW is Collateral. there were a few points in this when i thought, “… maybe.” (c) aliyasking. but by the half-hour mark i was really annoyed. and by the end, i was certain i won’t watch again. it’s dated and heavy-handed and lacking in realism. and i really hope they don’t plan on keeping that talking to the ashes/urn/air that supposedly represents her dead spouse.

    i can’t deal.

    … but good for her. i guess.

  • Marvalus said:

    I love Jada, and watched tonight’s show and liked it. Maybe because I liked Jada, maybe because I like medical dramas, maybe because I like television…

    But I am was not looking for them to focus on the fact that she’s Black with a biracial daughter and a dead White husband, all in the premiere episode, all the while trying to showcase her being the Chief Nurse Whatever. That would have been an impossible feat, and an incredibly messy one at that. I know all those questions will be answered eventually.

    I happened to like the fact that she is so caring, that she does whatever it takes. Yeah, it’s blatant that she’s so outside of the box, and it was blatant that she got blamed for her husband’s death…but did we get the story of why? I didn’t hear it, and I know it’s coming.

    I will watch until my interest wanes. I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

    The one thing that really did annoy me was the daughter…did she have to be so smart-assed?

  • tiffmo said:

    you’re so on point with your analysis! There is *nothing* interesting about Jada as Hawthorne, no character development or anything that makes her more than a nurse’s coat. Even the damn promos are boring

  • invisiblewoman said:

    That is one of the most generic looking casts, ever.

    That being said, I’m not surprised by this review. It looked like a dud from go, and Jada is not really what one would call an actor of merit.

  • Kim said:

    I liked the first episode and I’m with Marvalus in that I’ll stick around for a while longer. Then again, I’d watch paint dry on a wall if it was on tv, so maybe that’s telling on what I will watch. But in terms of critique it’s hard not to want to compare this to other medical show, but at the same time there are some differences. Scrubs is amazing and ABC is running it against HawthoRNe for the summer. But Scrubs is a medical comedy. House, ER, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice focus more on doctors…and ppl often gravitate to ppl with higher credentials. Nurse Jackie looked poised to be a success since they gave her a quirk as a nurse. Jada Pinkett does not have that on HawthoRNe as of yet. She’s a nice nurse battling against the elitism of doctors.

    What HawthoRNe lacked in the first episode is what will place it in a special niche. I have a feeling they may draw the arc of her husband’s death out over the first season…but until we understand that situation, we’ll be a little lost as to what motivates Hawthorne and what drives her to act in certain ways.

    So no, I wouldn’t call this a triumph for black Hollywood and it is most definitely not a “black” show, but it’s quality enough television and these days that’s a lot more than we can get from most stations. Really how many times has ABC changed their schedule last season instead of just developing concepts on their programs?

    Aisha Hinds shines in her work (even tho Invasion was a hot mess of a show…sorry). Her story line was one of the more interesting ones of the pilot.

    But nothing has yet to top my fave summer shows: Army Wives and Mad Men.

  • Elle said:

    Why do black women hate Jada Pinkett Smith?

  • Thembi (author) said:

    You’d have to demonstrate that people who aren’t black women LOVE her. Right now all evidence points to her career staying afloat mainly with the help of her superstar husband and the Church of Scientology.

  • Karima said:

    I’m a black woman and I don’t hate Jada but I’m also a nurse and I’m not feeling the show. I watched the first 2 episodes and I still can’t get into it. I’ve been looking forward to this show for months and it’s a huge disappointment.

  • Mindyobizz said:

    Ya some Haters for real… Damn.. one or two episodes and yall got the whole season summed up. For real though…in 2009 ya’ll still lookin for “black” shows??!?!? GTFOH wit that bs. Thats why white folk get shocked to here that we watch anything other than Martin and the Cosbys. Its obvious that Jada wasnt tryin to make another “black” show that keeps us in a box. Aint no such thing as a “black” hospital. If yall lookin for more realism we need to see more Filipino and Indian people on the cast of these Hospital shows. I can speak on this more than anybody here since I grew up in the Hospital environment. My mom is a HawthoRNe and has been my whole life. If ya would get ya heads out ya own asses (Author included) you would see that this show differs from the other Hospital shows in that it is based around the NURSES. rather than the Elitist, stuck on the high horse doctors. The NURSES spend more time with the patients than the doctors do and in most cases its the NURSES who at the end of the day save lives. Sadly at the end of the day they recieve little to no credit what so ever. The show aint about her havin a white husband and mixed daughter. That was obviously done so that people like you all would not attempt to stick her in the “black” box! HawthoRNe is HawthoRNe not Nurse Jackie for black folk! And BTW @the author… maybe if you watched more episodes you can get your facts straight before spewing your hate because Suleka Mathew is not playing an Indian Doctor she is in fact playing a Nurse by the name of Bobbie Jackson. There have been no mention as to her nationality but seeing as she is unmarried and her last name is Jackson, it is unlikely that she is playing an Indian. However, she is of Indian decent and she did play a doctor on a Canadian TV program called Da Vinci’s Inquest.
    Yall can get mad if yall want, I just call it how I see it. Peace!

  • Thembi (author) said:

    The actress in question IS of Indian descent, which is rare on tv, and that’s the point. Hawthorne is not at all focused on the black experience, which is what makes it nothing new. You definitely have strong opinions, though, so maybe if you educate yourself a bit on performance art and the industry , and of course learn to write, you can be an entertainment reviewer someday, too…

  • Tony said:

    Two words “Over Acting”.

  • ill Mami said:


    Because Jada always seems to be trying too hard. In every and any way possible. There are just like too many examples to mention, but this show is one of them.

  • mikki said:

    I don’t know why we expect it to be a “black” show. That’s interesting. I am a black woman and I love Jada. I am not taking sides, but I do see what everyone is talking about. I think what we are talking about is that most black women, nurses or otherwise, are married to black men. So in my opinion, it was unnecessary for Jada’s deceased husband to have been white. Who knows why this was done. Is Jada fully black herself? I just don’t know. I do know that Jada herself married a black man so it seems a little off balance.

    Anyway, I like the show, and I’m going to give her a chance. The funny thing is that these shows are full of average, overrated, over-acting white women and they still make a mint. I’m just glad to see her back and doing it. Take a look at how overrated Saving Grace is…Holly is getting good reviews. And for what?

  • Christie said:

    First, WHY does anything HAVE to be a black or a white show. That isn’t how the world is.

    Second, nursing is a job. Real nurses don’t put their lives and licenses on the line, kicking at cops, screaming like banshees blah, blah blah with all the draammaaaaaa. They do the job, most do it with caring and dedication but then they go home. It’s a job.

  • joanna said:

    I LOVE this show…. it is my new fave! The ONLY thing I don’t like is that they had to make her hubby a white man. And as for the Indian actress…. I didn’t know she was Indian. Thought she was Hispanic till I saw tonights episode and she told a bigoted man who assumed she was Hispanic that she was Indian and Sri Lankan. I don’t know, I love the show and watch every episode, no it is not a Black show but it is multicultural and I will continue to enjoy it.

  • KATHY said:


  • jaye said:

    i cared nothing about whether or not it was a “black” show…. i liked jada and i wished for her to do well with this…. but i… like many other blacks have grown increasingly tired of the trend of hollywood where once one of our black actresses reaches a certain level of fame… she must then be teamed with white leading men as a sign that she has “made it”…. it’s an insult to black male actors…. and the black community as a whole….

    and i am sad that jada has further perpetrated this trend… i understand that this effort was launched by her production company so i can only surmise that the decision to have her love interests be white was her decision…. that’s sad… i watched the first episode…. seeing the trend the show is taking i won’t be watching another…. and sad to say… i’m disapointed with mrs smith….

  • Ashley said:

    I loved this show. So just because she is black she has to be with a black man. I love her relationship with Michael Vartan. I am biracial and I love that the show went this route. I love that she is so caring and fights hard for her patients and what she believes in. She plays a strong woman which is all that count rather than the color of her skin and who she should be paired up with. The cast is brilliant and I have no complaints. I look forward to Tuesdays.

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