Seemingly designed as a companion to “Grey’s Anatomy” (right idea; wrong network), “Mercy” belatedly made NBC’s fall schedule because “Parenthood” dropped out, leaving the show in a tough spot. Appealing in places, the series has the misfortune to arrive on the heels of a summer glut of caring nurses — although this one’s protagonist carries an extra-heavy chip on her shoulder, having returned from serving in Iraq. Slick but a little too busy for its own good, the series has modest potential, an appealing cast and not a syringe’s worth of originality.
At its center is the acerbic war vet, Veronica (newcomer Taylor Schilling), who’s initially estranged from her well-meaning but dunderheaded husband (Diego Klattenhoff) — one of those amiable lugs who’s prone to brawling outside a bar.
The time in Iraq scarred Veronica, but she also had an extramarital affair there that’s clouding her feelings. Gruff, short-tempered and prone to lashing out at doctors, she’s flanked by a fresh-faced newbie (Michelle Trachtenberg) and a va-va-voom gal, Sonia (Jaime Lee Kirchner), who has no trouble attracting men (hell, even the camera can’t resist lasciviously zooming in on her assorted parts) — although she’s begun thinking about dating less for love than money, having grown weary of putting out in exchange for dinners.
While the younger crowd drives the action, they’re surrounded by a promising assortment of older characters, including a hospital administrator (Delroy Lindo), nursing overseer (Margo Martindale) and Veronica’s boozy parents (Peter Gerety, Kate Mulgrew). Alas, none of those roles are credited as series regulars.
The pilot for “Mercy,” created by Liz Heldens (“Friday Night Lights”), has enough moving parts and soapy elements to provide the basis for a reasonably compelling show — though inasmuch as the series was likely conceived for a later hour, it has been somewhat simplified, and not in a helpful way, from its original presentation. Still, the premiere’s not bad, and women in particular could find a lot to like in the central trio if they can be enticed to the nurses’ station.
Nevertheless, the show represents an odd duck for the Peacock, looking and feeling more compatible with those dramedies that breed like rabbits on ABC. And the 8 p.m. time period means the program is going to have to be a complete self-starter — clearly, a tall order.
Grading on a curve amid TV’s viral nurse outbreak, the series proves more engaging than “Hawthorne” and less dour than “Nurse Jackie.” Initially, though, it just doesn’t quite possess the requisite spark that would leave people begging for “Mercy.”