The Watchman: Ted Plays Jed, Stamper Still a Damper

Racial strife. A nation divided in two. A controversial president.

It could be today, but it’s actually 1862, when the second season of PBS drama Mercy Street takes place. “Some of the issues that come forward in a Civil War show were still relevant when we started this,” says David Zabel, executive producer. “It’s got additional resonance with what’s happening in this country.”

Mercy Street is a medical drama, with Josh Radnor, in a big departure from How I Met Your Mother’s Ted, playing Dr. Jed Foster, triaging the myriad maladies flying his way. The show is unique in that it’s a PBS drama made in, and set in, these rebel States.

“PBS has plenty of great dramas imported from England,” says Zabel. “They wanted to make their own great American series with American themes.”

Davids Zabel, Zucker and Rosemont are among the exec producers. “We’ve gotten good at addressing each other by our last names,” says Zucker.

For another look at divided nations, there’s the sophomore season of Outsiders starting up Jan. 24 on WGN America. David Morse plays Big Foster Farrell, patriarch of a family in really rural Kentucky that has nothing to do with society, and prefers to keep it that way. The show’s genesis came from income equality and the Occupy Wall Street movement, says creator Peter Mattei. Key themes in season 2 are constriction and confinement. “I think it speaks to the times we live in more than any other show on television,” Mattei says, noting the “disenfranchisement” of rural communities, and who they see as the bad guy.

Speaking of bad guys, we caught up with Michael Kelly, who plays serpentine Underwood underling Doug Stamper on House of Cards, and another heel on FX’s new Taboo. His character, Dr. Edgar Dumbarton, “is another guy who operates in the shadows,” says Kelly, “who’s willing to do anything for what he believes is the right cause.”

Does Kelly ever think of playing a good guy? He responds with an uncharacteristic grin. “Do I want to play a guy who smiles in a movie? Yeah, I would love it,” he says. “Deadpool 2? It would be a blast.”