Judge Clark Douglas thinks the cancellation of this show was a Mercy killing.
Some nurses give shots. Veronica calls them.
"I'm saving lives here!"
Facts of the Case
Veronica Agnes Flanagan Callahan (Taylor Schilling, Dark Matter) has returned home after a tour of duty in Iraq. She treated a lot of wounded men, woman and children there, and the experience left her emotionally scarred. Now she's returned to work at Mercy Hospital in Jersey City, New Jersey, and she's bringing the sort of impulsive decision-making that was a necessity in Iraq to the real world. Needless to say, some of her superiors (both the doctors and the pencil-pushers) aren't particularly happy with this, informing Veronica that she needs to know her place. Even so, Veronica's actions have a way of saving lives.
All 22 of the rather clumsily titled episodes of Mercy are spread across five discs.
There are so many interesting professions in the world that are undoubtedly full of their own brands of drama, but for whatever reason television audiences insist on a steady diet of cop shows and medical shows. Every year, a new batch of these programs comes out offering new twists ("This time they're all rookie cops!" "This time the doctor has supernatural powers!"), but most end up recycling the same old formulaic plots. With the legendary E.R. ending its extended run, NBC was looking for a new medical drama to fill the void. Two different contenders threw their hat in the ring. The first was the explosion-y Trauma, which brought operatic, slow-motion action to the genre. The second was Mercy, a kooky drama which was essentially a Nurse Jackie knock-off. Unfortunately for the network, both shows fared poorly in the ratings and were cancelled by the season's conclusion.
In the case of Mercy, it's not hard to see why. This is such a wheezy show, drawing upon just about every imaginable medical show cliché and borrowing so blatantly from Nurse Jackie that one has no good reason to watch this program instead of that one. Both programs are essentially built around the same type of lead character: the steely, embittered nurse who doesn't play by the rules and who has plenty of problems at home despite doing exceptionally well in the workplace. She's married, but regularly cheats on her husband with a co-worker. The only thing to distinguish the two from each other is that Nurse Jackie is a pill-popper and Nurse Veronica was in Iraq.
That's a fact you won't forget anytime soon, since Veronica reminds everyone of it every five minutes. As soon as someone starts bellyaching about their aches and pains, Veronica sternly says something along the lines of, "You think you're in pain? I've seen children in Iraq who had to witness the death of their parents firsthand and then had their leg blown off. THAT is pain. Your problems are like a trip to Club Med." This might have been a powerful individual moment, but it happens so often that it becomes laughable. Additionally, like pretty much every member of the military depicted in film and television, Veronica suffers from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Wouldn't it be a nice change of pace to have a fictional military veteran who wasn't afflicted with severe mental issues?
Also like Nurse Jackie, this show features a young character who's new to the nursing game and brings her oppressive optimism and innocence with her. In this instance, she's played by the talented Michelle Trachtenberg (Ice Princess), who deserves better than what the script gives her. What other similarities? The quirky best friend (Jaime Lee Kirchner, Carlito's Way: Rise to Power), the colorful gay co-worker (Guillermo Diaz, Weeds), the self-absorbed doctor (James Le Gros, Living in Oblivion), the uptight but understanding superior (Delroy Lindo, Heist), the bland husband (Diego Klattenhoff, Lucky Number Slevin)…the only difference is that most of these characters come with over-the-top Jersey (Joysey) accents.
Things start poorly and just get worse as they go along, as the show quickly descends into bizarre character behavior and wildly over-the-top subplots completely outside the realm of medicine. This thing jumped the shark way too quickly; it's no wonder it didn't last. The performances are okay, but frequently overwhelmed by the weakness of the material. Only James Le Gros manages to be consistently solid; it's a quietly amusing performance stuck in a sub-par show.
The DVD transfer is quite respectable, offering strong detail and vibrant colors. It looks about as good as one could want a standard-def release to look, and audio is quite an impressive mix as well. Supplements include audio commentaries with assorted cast and crew members on two episodes and a whole host of brief featurettes: "Dr. Sands Speaks," "Interview with Jaime Lee Kirchner," "The New Doctor," "Guest Stars Galore," "Stiller and Meara on Mercy," "Adventures Outside of Salem," "Guest Star Michael Imperioli," "Elevating Our Focus," "Real Housewives on Mercy," "Blogger Q&A" and a gag reel. Oh, one more extra: a director's cut of the final episode.
If you're a fan of the show, the box set does it justice. If you need your steely-nurse-who-breaks-all-the-rules fix, I'd advise you to rent the flawed yet vastly superior Nurse Jackie instead.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2010 Clark Douglas; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.