Mercy: Complete Series
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Mercy: Complete Series

One of the most venerable staples in television programming is the medical drama. As far as settings conducive to emotional intensity you can’t get much better than a hospital. Now I’ve been educated and worked in a hospital for many years and some of my closest friends still have their careers in that environment and we have never seen any evidence of all the passionate, frequently illicit sexual behavior that is commonly portrayed in ant medical series. But with that little bit of reality tucked neatly away a hospital is ideal since life of death situations are a common occurrence. Most times the focus of the series is on the doctors, usually the wise, fatherly type or the more popular dashingly handsome rebellious young side of the stereotype. In the last few years the all important nursing staff is coming out of the shadows in television hospital taking center stage as the primary characters of the series. There is still a long way to go until TV recognized the indispensable role nurse play in health management but at least these series have move the genre past nurses serving only to say ‘Yes doctor’ or provide a readily available sexual conquest. One series that tried its best to forward the view of nursing in television was ‘Mercy’. This series revolved around a group of nurses working in a mid scale hospital located in Jersey City, New Jersey. It is a soap opera, make no mistake about that, nut there was enough force in the writing and talent in the cast that this series had untapped potential. Unfortunately the series must have had a ‘do not resuscitate’ order somewhere since the network announced its cancelation before the end of the first season. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened is the series was afforded the opportunity to find a solid foundation and grow into so of its possibility. Like an increasing number of series that were cancelled before its time the network has at least made the entire series, all one season of it, available on DVD.

The series was created by Liz Heldens who had experience in writing episodes other shows that were not given enough time to find themselves; ‘Bionic Woman’ and ‘Pepper Dennis’ as well as the more successful ‘Boston Public’. One thing in common for most of her work is the ability to find a realistic voice for strong willed female characters. This vantage point is a requirement for a series like this. While it is not completely representative of the real role of nursing it is in many ways a step in the right direction. For one thing the nurses here have brains; they are not only able to think they frequently are proactive in their role as patient advocates even if it means openly defying the doctors. True, in real life that would be more likely to result in dismissal instead of an emotional moment but at least the stories are compelling and fun to watch. Mercy hospital’s nursing staff contains three very outspoken young women; Veronica Flanagan Callahan (Taylor Schilling), her best friend Sonia Jimenez (Jaime Lee Kirchner) and new nurse and friend Chloe Payne (Michelle Trachtenberg).overall this is handled as an ensemble cast although the central character is Veronica the other ladies get time to expand upon their own character development. This series is part of a trend to show highly damaged characters. This season seemed to focus on nurses with major emotional challenges in line with the more over the top variation found in Showtime’s ‘Nurse Jackie’. Ronnie has a valid reason, actually as the season progressed, several. Ronnie has just returned after a year serving in the war zone in Iraq. After the action there New Jersey was relatively light. Ronnie was used to more independence there than is permitted Stateside. She can readily perform an emergency procedure on the street but in the hospital has to answer to doctors that can barley manage. Making thing more difficult for Ronnie is her home life. While in the war she had an affair with a doctor serving there, Chris Sands (James Tupper) who now works in the same hospital as Ronnie. This reignites old flames and affecting her work at the hospital and eventually destroying her marriage to Mike Callahan (Diego Klattenhoff). Ronnie can’t turn to her close knit Irish-Catholic family; both her mother, Jeannie (Kate Mulgrew) and father Jimmy (Peter Gerety) are barely functioning alcoholics. Whether its nature or nurture Ronnie has gone down the familiar path and is fighting drug and alcohol abuse herself. Her life is seriously derailed, a condition that doesn’t improve during the course of the series. For example Ronnie is in a donut shop during an armed robbery and winds up killing the crook in self defense. This tears the thin thread holding her together. She winds up trying to get back with Dr. Chris but life is just too complicated. Sonia has her own romantic trouble with a police officer while Chloe is learning to balance the demands of her new profession with life outside the security of school. Chloe is written surprisingly well breaking from the tradition treatment of young nurses. She starts as what I like to call ‘a golden retriever nurse’; pretty to look at bunch not the sharpest knife in the draw. To their credit the writers were just beginning to bring this character into interesting story arcs concerning her. She manages to uncover the softer side of the overly rigid Dr. Dr. Gillian Jelani (K.K. Moggie), who is constantly at odds with Veronica. They also socialize Chloe letting her go out for a drink with the girls and discus her own sexual experiences. Usually this archetype would remain unnaturally innocent in contrast to the worldliness of the main character.

Towards the middle of the series the writers try to shake things up with the introduction with the introduction of Dr. Joe Briggs (James Van Der Beek); independent, headstrong and slightly mysterious. It was a case of too little too late and ratings declined before the series could find its way. At least it is preserved on DVD for continued enjoyment.

Posted 06/27/2010

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