Do you count yourself a longtime fan of history-heavy films? Are you obsessed with period drama? Maybe you’re the type who’s never missed a single series premiere on PBS. In any case, somehow you’ve found yourself settled in with Mercy Street, a Civil War-set medical drama that’s the first original American series to premiere on PBS in years.
For the record, it’s rare to come across a sophisticated American version of the series typically set on the other side of the pond.
Whether it’s PBS’ Mr. Selfridge, Call the Midwife, or Downton Abbey, UK-based dramas usually veer toward the riveting and respectful without being resorting to saccharine or silly over-the-top tactics.
Americans on the other hand? As far as stateside-set historical shows, we have AMC’s Revolutionary War drama Turn and FX’s Reagan-era series The Americans; both excellent but not exactly in keeping with PBS’ style of dramatic production.
That said, getting Mercy Street made – and on air – seems to be a minor miracle meant especially for fans of the period-set soap: It’s beautifully shot and painstakingly designed, with a large cast, which includes Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Hannah James, Gary Cole, Josh Radnor, AnnaSophia Robb, Jack Falahee, and McKinley Belcher III.
Deftly blending elements of a medical drama with a war-set period piece, Mercy Street revolves around a pair of volunteer nurses in the form of abolitionist-leaning Northener Mary Phinney and Southern belle-slash-Confederate sympathizer Emma Green.
This is no fluffy story about love lost and crumpled crinolines.
That much is clear in the opening scene, w Winstead interviews with testy hospital director Miss Dorthea Dix.