'Nurse Jackie' Showrunners' Personal Friction Leads to Departures

6:34 PM PST 04/17/2012 by Lesley Goldberg , Lacey Rose
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Linda Wallem & Liz Brixius

UPDATED: Lionsgate is said to be circling a replacement for co-creators Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius as the series awaits word on a fifth season.

Some two weeks after its fourth-season premiere, Nurse Jackie co-creators and showrunners Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius are departing the Showtime series.

Their exit, which comes after production on the season has wrapped, is due in part to friction on the set caused by the co-showrunners’ romantic history, according to sources. Wallem and Brixius, who were a couple prior to the creation of Jackie, were said not to be getting along, with the ensuing animosity creating a challenging work environment for the cast and crew. Wallem is now in a relationship with Grammy winner Melissa Etheridge.

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Studio Lionsgate is said to be circling a candidate to take Wallem and Brixius’ place as showrunner, a promising sign for a fifth season for the series. An announcement is expected in the coming weeks. Nurse Jackie linchpin Edie Falco will remain as star and an involved producer on the series, assuming it gets renewed.

The news comes after the critical hit premiered in early April to 653,000 total viewers, up 7 percent from the show’s third-season bow a year earlier. Although a valuable awards player for the network (Falco won the outstanding comedy actress Emmy in 2010), it has failed to generate the high ratings that such dramas as Dexter or Homeland have delivered for Showtime.

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This season of Jackie is the first to be made under new entertainment chief David Nevins, who is attempting to broaden the appeal of the network with more populist series Homeland and House of Lies. Falco’s title character this season has entered rehab and is now substance-free. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Brixius acknowledged that the decision to have Jackie finally face consequences for her actions came from Nevins.

“I know [former Showtime chief] Bob [Greenblatt,] but I don't know David. So I watched five seasons of Friday Night Lights [which he produced as Imagine TV chief] back to back," she told THR. "I watched how fast the storytelling happened. I watched how there was setup, payoff, setup, payoff. It happened many times in the seasons. The way that we had done Jackie for three years was to plant seeds and then nurture them, and then they'd pay off in the big finale. People kind of got used to that. It was pretty clear that David said you've got to pay stuff off.”

Email: Lacey.Rose@thr.com, Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com

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