PBS has high hopes for Mercy Street. It’s the first original drama created by the network in over a decade and arrives in a media environment flush with ambitious television. The show is weighted with heavy expectations, its release timed to coincide with the final season of Downton Abbey. The apparent goal: A hit to succeed the British import and perhaps lead to more homegrown productions.
Mercy Street has received a promotional push commensurate to the investment PBS made in developing it, and it’s regularly compared to Downton, despite its creators’ insistence the two merely share their dramatic bent.
There are similarities between Mercy Street and Downton Abbey, though, beyond that they’re both prestige dramas. For starters, they are both simultaneously family and workplace dramas. Downton’s Upstairs, Downstairs-inspired chronicle of the Crawley family and their manor full of servants inspires a tangled web of relationships. Mercy Street also combines family and work, but leads with its wartime hospital centerpiece and mostly Union Army staff. The family element is woven in through the Greens, a Confederate-sympathizing aristocratic clan that owned Mansion House, originally a luxury hotel, before the war. Continue reading Exploring Mercy Street: The Haversack