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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2009-2010 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on either a cut screened to us privately or a copy supplied by a third party NOT a screener provided by the network in question. All were received or screened prior to the networks' official mailings that went out in mid-June.]
(Wednesdays at 8:00/7:00c at midseason; TRT: 44:52)
The network's description: "Mercy," a new medical drama with a unique point of view, portrays the lives of the staff at Mercy Hospital as seen through the eyes of those who know it best -- its nurses. Nurse Veronica Callahan (Taylor Schilling, "Dark Matter") returns to Mercy from a military tour in Iraq -- and she knows more about medicine than all of the residents combined. Together with fellow nurses Sonia Jimenez (Jamie Lee Kirchner, "Rescue Me") and Chloe Payne (Michelle Trachtenberg, "Gossip Girl"), Callahan navigates through the daily traumas and social landmines of life and love both inside the hospital and out in the real world. The cast also includes: James Tupper ("Men in Trees") as Dr. Chris Sands, a new doctor at the hospital who complicates Veronica's life; Diego Klattenhoff ("Supernatural") as Mike Callahan, Veronica's husband; and Guillermo Diaz ("Weeds") as Nurse Angel Lopez. "Mercy" is a production from Universal Media Studios and Berman Braun. Joining writer/executive producers Liz Heldens (NBC's "Friday Night Lights") and Gretchen Berg & Aaron Harberts ("Pushing Daisies," "Pepper Dennis") are executive producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun. Emmy Award winner Adam Bernstein (NBC's "30 Rock," "Rescue Me") is the director."
What did they leave out? That about covers it.
The plot in a nutshell: Veronica Callahan (Taylor Schilling) may be the best medical mind at New Jersey's Mercy Hospital. But as Dr. Dan Harris (James LeGros), Mercy's Chief Resident, frequently reminds her, she's only a nurse. You see, Veronica returned from her tour in Iraq at her professional peak. But between her crumbling marriage to contractor Mike (Diego Klattenhoff), her alcoholic parents (Peter Gerety, Kate Mulgrew) and a slight case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, her personal life is at an all-time low, making dealing with the hospital's endless parade of either nice-but-useless or mean-but-mistake-prone doctors (a recurring theme on television as of late) more frustrating than usual. Even worse, she learns from the hospital's Chief of Staff, Alfred Parks (Delroy Lindo), her open defiance of them may come at the cost of her job.
Aiding Veronica in her quest however are fellow nurses Sonia Jimenez (Jamie Lee Kirchner), a jaded serial dater who's given up on love in order to marry rich; Chloe Payne (Michelle Trachtenberg), a wide-eyed newbie (complete with Hello Kitty scrubs) that can barely do anything without an emotional outpouring; and the sardonic Angel Lopez (Guillermo Diaz). The real wrench in Veronica's machine however arrives in the form of Dr. Chris Sands (James Tupper),
a handsome fellow vet who - of course - she had a hot-and-heavy affair with while she was in Iraq (this being after her husband confessed of an affair of his own). She nevertheless wants to stick it out with Mike and the two must find a new status quo. Tying all these threads together then are a pair of cases - a dying cancer patient who's debating whether to continue treatment; and a gang member and gunshot victim - each of which give our heroes a reason to press on.
What works: "Mercy" is one of those shows where all the pieces are seemingly there - the cast is interesting and the storyline has its moments - but it never quite makes the leap into greatness. I like that Veronica's bad behavior is self-aware ("You're a hypocrite," her brother Bobby scolds her. "You fought in the war. It doesn't give you permission to be a dick.") instead of excused by the horrible things she's experienced. I also like that there's an undercurrent to the show about whether - both personally and professionally - one should settle for what you know, since you can count on it, versus reaching for something you think might be better, even though it might hurt you.
What doesn't: On the flip side, Schilling's Veronica isn't particularly likeable. We don't really buy her righteous indignation as her fits come across more like tantrums. And while I get that's kind of the point - she's slipping into a dark place - it doesn't make watching it any more entertaining. Meanwhile, Kirchner's Sonia is inexplicably traumatized at a fancy party with her rich boyfriend (she doesn't fit in! the other girls are mean! her expensive dress rips!), sending her into the arms of a cop that's closer to her pay grade - a development which seems at odds with a character who deftly handled a violent outburst from the aforementioned gangbanger a few minutes earlier. Also exposing the show's seams is Veronica's painfully "only on TV" love triangle between Mike and Chris as the latter arrives literally within minutes of her agreeing to give Mike another chance. And of course, Chris is of the "McDreamy" mold as compared to the oafish but means well Mike. All of the above - plus some warmed over attempts at humor (as a rule, all medical shows must apparently feature bodily fluids being dumped on the new person... multiple times) - keep any true embers from emerging.
The bottom line: Here's hoping we get a lot more reasons to stay tuned.