In the UK: Sunday 27th September, 10pm, BBC4. Available on the iPlayer
It's episode three of the second season of Engrenages aka Spiral, and we have a new theme on top of the usual Engrenages tropes. We have the series' continuing study of the misogyny prevalent apparently everywhere in France, whether it's in the legal system or among the general populace, as well as the acknowledgement that good can be evil and evil can be good.
But in this episode, we also have a look at terror.
There's a long and honourable tradition in US drama of characters returning from war and getting new day jobs. Whether it was Korea (Kelly Robinson - I Spy), Nam (Michael Knight - Knight Rider, Stringfellow Hawke - Airwolf), the Gulf War (Major John MacGillis - Major Dad), Afghanistan (Colby Granger - Numb3rs) or Iraq (Justin Walker - Brothers and Sisters), the characters come back, sometimes messed up, sometimes not.
But they sure as hell want to talk about it a lot.
Very, very infrequently, however, are these characters women, which makes Mercy something of a novelty. Set in a hospital of the same name, it follows the lives of three nurses - including one Iraq war veteran - as they try to cope with patients, the staff and their own lives.
Ordinarily, that would be interesting enough you'd have thought: nurses are highly trained professionals, yet are always regarded as "not as good as a doctor", even when they do more of the procedures and can often be more experienced. They see the real sharp end of things, and have to deal with the patients far more than doctors do, too.
But for some reason, the producers took what could have been a near-insightful drama and warped it into a never-ending discussion about how war is hell and messes you up - and boyfriends. It's still moderately interesting, but you know what? War - and boyfriend bitching - is also hell to listen to.
A lot of 'pro-women' (I use the quotes advisedly) TV is surprisingly crude. Often, it seems to think that as long as women are the protagonists and are seen to win through at the end, any old rubbish stereotypes are allowed, men can be the universal enemy and the women can be a bit thick and backward but win through in the end through friendship. Characterisation often takes a back seat to fluffy ideals and any real world nuances seem to get lost. It's as if TV writers can believe the theory, but can't believe the practice.
Since leaving ER, Julianna Margulies has had a couple of stabs at 'pro women' vehicles. Canterbury's Law went to the other extreme of 'pro-women' TV by having Margulies play a complete a-hole - basically a woman lawyer who acted exactly like an a-hole male lawyer in every way. It deservedly got cancelled within about three milliseconds.
The Good Wife is her latest effort and it's considerably more promising. Margulies once again plays a lawyer, albeit one who hasn't practised in 13 years since she's been bringing up her family. When her politician husband (Sex and the City's Chris Noth) is incarcerated and revealed to have been having affairs with hookers, she's forced to become the family wage-earner and rediscover herself.
It's still a little bit crude, but it's considerably more interesting than most such programmes and attempts to demonstrate that older women still have something to offer that maybe their younger colleagues don't.
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I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.