What kind of busy nurse still looks fabulous after a sleepless night of grief-induced insomnia? The kind of nurse played by Jada Pinkett Smith on “Hawthorne” (8 p.m., TNT).
Within moments of meeting Christina Hawthorne, we see her bounding past hospital security at 5 a.m., rushing upstairs and determined to save a would-be jumper who has chosen his big gesture to coincide with the first anniversary of Hawthorne’s husband’s death. She’s a nurse! She’s a widow! She’s a superhero!
Hawthorne is apparently filled with guilt about her husband’s death and when she isn’t, her daughter and mother-in-law are happy to remind her. “Hawthorne” piles one crisis on top of another, as if to keep our heroine from her inner turmoil and to distract us from the fact that the glamorous Smith just isn’t all that convincing in this role.
For the record, “Haw-thorne” becomes the second nurse drama to debut on cable in the space of one week. Like “Nurse Jackie” (starring Edie Falco), there are many subplots about the arrogance of doctors and the compassion of nurses. But while “Jackie” has dispensed with the frantic “ER”-inspired action and camera work to focus on Falco’s performance, the onslaught of medical emergencies and miniature soap operas on “Hawthorne” seems to have the opposite intention and effect.
• History, the cliché tells us, is written by the winners. That’s not always the case on “Frontline” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings). This series’ extensive coverage and insight into the invasion of Iraq was filled with interviews with retired CIA agents and others who felt betrayed by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld’s perversion of intelligence gathering. They may not have been “winners,” but they were intent on setting the record straight.
On tonight’s installment, “Breaking the Bank,” we hear from two prominent voices still smarting from the tire-tracks of onrushing history. Merrill Lynch head John Thain and Bank of America chairman Ken Lewis join others to describe what it was like to be inside the financial meltdown of 2008 and become reluctant parties to a shotgun-wedding merger mandated by the Treasury secretary and the Federal Reserve.
“Breaking” offers a nice survey history of the crisis and an overview of a financial revolution that has shifted power from New York to Washington.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Documentary filmmakers return to a Louisiana prison in “A Decade Behind Bars: Return to the Farm” (7 p.m., National Geographic).
• Bill Engvall hosts the 2009 CMT Music Awards (7 p.m., CMT).
• Murder goes Hollywood on “The Mentalist” (8 p.m., CBS).
• A patient’s favorite video game exists only in his imagination on “Mental” (8 p.m., Fox).
• Can living “green” make your life easier? “The Lazy Environmentalist” (8 p.m., Sundance) seems to think so.
• Scheduled on “48 Hours Mystery” (9 p.m., CBS): survival.
• Agreements with Sheila and Janet begin to unravel on “Rescue Me” (9 p.m., FX).
• “Independent Lens” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) presents “Ask Not” a documentary look at the negative effects of the military’s policy on gay soldiers and sailors.
• The angel-wrestling cop drama “Saving Grace” (9 p.m., TNT), starring Holly Hunter, returns for season 3.