'Mercy' needs a transfusion, STAT

TV review

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NBC's new nurse drama may prompt viewers to shout its title in exasperation.

Cliched characters and situations abound in "Mercy" (8 tonight, WPXI), the story of Iraq War vet Veronica (Taylor Schilling) who returns to her job as a nurse at New Jersey's Mercy Hospital while trying to juggle her crumbling marriage to contractor Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) and the affair she had in Iraq with doc Chris Sands (James Tupper, "Men in Trees").

  • When: 8 tonight on NBC.
  • Starring: Taylor Schilling.

But to anyone who watched Showtime's "Nurse Jackie," "Mercy" will just seem like a knock-off. That's not really fair to "Mercy" because both shows were developed at the same time, but that will be the perception regardless.

Like "Jackie," "Mercy's" Veronica has complicated romantic entanglements, a best friend co-worker (Jaime Lee Kirchner, "Rescue Me"), and a male nurse buddy (Guillermoe Diaz, "Weeds"). And she's tasked with training a "practically Amish" newbie nurse (Michelle Trachtenberg, "Gossip Girl").

Unlike "Jackie," nothing in "Mercy" feels real or believable, particularly the naivete of the recent grad student newbie nurse, who acts as if she's never been in a hospital. The show also hits viewers over the head with its thesis statement that nurses are under-appreciated (a doctor dismisses a nurse's diagnosis caustically; an accident victim's fiancee refers to Veronica as "just some stupid nurse").

The show plays alcoholism for laughs -- Veronica's parents, played by Kate Mulgrew and Peter Gerety, are the butt of the joke in several "look at the cute Jersey drunks" scenes -- and positions Veronica's serious Iraq experience alongside sub-"Grey's Anatomy" make-out sessions in a hospital closet.

The premiere ends with the three primary female nurses clamoring to help a bartender they find attractive after he gets cut in a bar fight.

"Don't worry, we're nurses," the newbie nurse says, making it sound like a threat.

Mercy, indeed.

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.


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