Mercy -- TV Review

On television, great minds might think alike, but it's not always a good thing: The creators behind NBC's "Mercy" must have taken one look at Showtime's "Nurse Jackie" this summer and plotzed.

That's because by the time "Mercy" debuts Wednesday, audiences -- at least those with premium cable -- already will have enjoyed an excellent hospital dramedy in which a wiseacre nurse bends the rules; a wide-eyed, naive newcomer joins the nurse family; a gay male nurse provides splashes of sass; and the doctors are indifferent at best, incompetent at worst.

But wait, those creative minds might protest, "Mercy's" lead is no Jackie. Veronica (Taylor Schilling) is a war vet who had an affair with a doctor while serving abroad. And no, she's not called Hot Lips, and he's more McSteamy than Hawkeye anyway because he's played by James Tupper ("Men in Trees").

By which time it'll be clear: "Mercy" is a lethal cocktail of virtually every medical drama ever seen on TV. But on those merits, should it really be considered DOA?

Nah, there are other reasons to pull the plug. Relative newcomer Schilling has a lot on her plate: avoiding becoming an alcoholic, trying to make her marriage work, dealing with PTSD. She's a victim of the war, her life and job and not taken seriously by anyone. But Schilling doesn't quite penetrate as a war-toughened tomboy; her fine bones and deep, soulful eyes make her seem like a surly, toe-scuffing teen.

The writing doesn't help, twisting itself into a pretzel to provide ironies like having her affaire d'guerre show up as the new doc at the hospital the day after she's reconciled with the husband (the kind of guy who says, "She's a ball buster, but I love her"). Since McSteamy has a two-year contract with the hospital, plan for at least a season or two of sexual tension.

Ultimately, despite an attempt to raw up the scene with topical war references, "Mercy" ends up being just another hospital soap opera that audiences have seen, and seen done better. As things stand, there's no really compelling reason to return to this hospital for follow-up treatment.

Airdate: 8-9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23 (NBC)
Production: BermanBraun, Universal Media Studios
Cast: Taylor Schilling, Jaime Lee Kirchner, Michelle Trachtenberg, James Tupper, Diego Klattenhoff, Guillermo Diaz, James LeGros
Executive producers: Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun, Liz Heldens, Gretchen Berg, Aaron Harberts
Creator-writer: Liz Heldens
Co-executive producers: Dan Dworkin, Jay Beattie, Peter Elkoff, Toni Graphia
Producers: James Bigwood, Adam Kane, Matt Ward
Director: Adam Bernstein
Director of photography: William Rexer
Production designer: John Kasarda
Casting: Junie Lowry, Scott Genkinger, Suzanne Smith Crowley
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