Funding woes prompt PBS to kill off ‘Mercy Street’

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Antony Platt

Shalita Grant plays Aurelia Johnson on the PBS historical drama Mercy Street.

Mercy Street, PBS’s Civil War hospital drama, will not survive for a Season 3.

PBS said in a statement Thursday that it couldn’t secure funding for a new season.

The second season of Mercy Street ended Sunday. The program revolved around the lives of the staff and patients inside an Alexandria, Va., hotel that had been converted to a hospital by Union troops.

“We are extremely proud of both seasons of Mercy Street,” said Beth Hoppe, PBS chief programmer, in the statement. The six episodes of Season 1 reached 14 million viewers and was PBS’s second–most-popular drama after Downton Abbey that season, according to PBS and Nielsen. The first three episodes of Season 2, for which the most recent data is available, garnered 6.5 million viewers.

Mercy Street was PBS’s first original drama since 2004. Executive producers included Ridley Scott (Thelma and Louise, The Good Wife) and David W. Zucker (The Man in the High Castle). Leading the cast were Josh Radnor as Dr. Jedediah Foster and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nurse Mary Phinney.

Funders for Season 1 included the Anne Ray Foundation, the Virginia Film Office and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which dropped its support for Season 2.

PBS also premiered the program with an in-season licensing deal with Amazon that gave exclusive streaming rights to Amazon Prime Video subscribers.

PBS never revealed the cost of Mercy Street. A PBS spokesperson said that it does not disclose production budgets.

But in a 2016 interview with Current, Hoppe said Mercy Street producers “accomplished a lot with what they had. … The price tags on some dramas out there are $10 million an hour, and this is a fraction of that.”

The cast worked for less than regular rates, and series creator Lisa Wolfinger said limiting shoots to two primary locations also reduced costs.

Correction: An earlier version of this post identified Aurelia Johnson as an actress. That is the character that actress Shalita Grant plays.

22 thoughts on “Funding woes prompt PBS to kill off ‘Mercy Street’

  1. It can’t possibly be too late! If enough people jump on the #SaveMercyStreet bandwagon, they’ll find a way to keep it going…

  2. Just finished watching the second season. The series should continue. We lack the shows about our country’s history, and this one was absolutely wonderful, done with deep historical perspective, intelligence and beauty.The show was both educational and highly exciting.

    • Heartily agree with your comment. US history is most interesting,; I favor the 19th century to study . So tired of the the CSI , NCIS, Law and Order SVU etc., and lame comedies So much of the repetitive themes and genre! I spent many years as a Civil War reenactor and valued Mercy Street, an American production of American history. I sometimes wonder about American values today. The colonials waged a war of independence from the English Monarchy, gained it. Now what? The US seems enthralled with the Royals, and with British dramas. I understand the dramas for US TV has hit the lows. I would rather watch Masterpiece Theater than any US program. It’s not as though American’s lack talent to do quality work, just the commitment to put $$$$ forth to do it. But, racy novels, programs always flaunting sex, fast action, violence appeals.

  3. I love this show and hope there is some way to save it on another channel! (just a note: in the above photo, Shalita Grant is the name of the actress. her character in season one was named Aurelia). :)

  4. This is an excellent series that showcases our history along with great drama. It is a great loss not to continue into a 3rd season. I would love to see another network pick it up.

  5. I love films/shows about history, or anytime in the 1800s or the first half of the 1900s. I love old fashioned stories and music. Old fashioned cars, houses, families, and other quaint places of interest that people went to back then for either work or leisure. The unspoilt buildings and landscape. And I love seeing women in those beautiful old fashioned floor length hoop skirts. It all takes me back to that simpler more innocent time. A time before so many people stopped believing in God.

  6. Wow, I’m really late to this info, having just found seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon Prime. I finished binge-watching both seasons today, and was anxiously looking forward to season 3 when I discovered that it had been cancelled. Such a shame to see a good show lost due to a lack of funding.

  7. My wife and I loved the show .so disappointed to find out it had been cancelled.i love a civil war drama ,the story line between the doctors and nurses was done beautifully.We need shows like Mercy Street to show our history the way it was.Would love to see this show be brought back.

  8. I just finished watching the second season of mercy street. What a wonderful show. After finding out that there will not be a third season, I was so disappointed. There are not many shows on television I personally like to watch. But this show I liked and was eager to watch. The show makes you see this time in history up close. I loved the attention to detail that showed you how things were then. We are ultimately so blessed to be able to learn from the past and should really be encouraged and support shows like these that open our eyes to our past.

  9. Just watched season 1 on DVD. I’m a new fan who is as disappointed as everyone else that the show was cut after two seasons. BRING IT BACK. Find a way. I would contribute to the funding of this show. It’s gaining traction a year out from season 2. That says something.

  10. i don’t get it. I live in the area where Mercy Street was filmed and they taped at least enough footage for 23 episodes 2 years ago. This was a terrific show and it deserves another season or two.

  11. I think instead of writing comments here you should be writing letters to the Alfred Sloane Foundation, a major contributor to the series, and ask them to restore their funding. Maybe also a letter to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  12. Hate the way USA cancel shows so quickly. Just watched seasons 1 and 2 really enjoying it to find out its been cancelled. Leaving it on a cliff hanger..Such a shame . Not watching Drama from USA anymore they do it far to often..
    Mercy Street was well written and well acted and should have continued.

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