Mercy

Why so many nursing shows lately? It may be the economy's fault.

Showtime's Nurse Jackie and TNT's HawthoRNe will soon be joined by NBC's new drama Mercy. It's just another sign that the recession has turned networks' attention from upscale doctors and lawyers to the pink-collar workers who didn't always get their due on the air.

Check out our photo gallery of TV nurses

"It really felt like a way to depict real working women," Mercy creator and executive director Liz Heldens said. "These girls are drinking beer in New Jersey, not martinis in Manhattan. I mean, look, they manage to pull it together and look fantastic but they don't have a ton of money."

The shows' nurses are as varied as those in the profession: HawthoRNe follows a fiercely dedicated nurse in her 30s (Jada Pinkett-Smith), Nurse Jackie stars Edie Falco as a nurse in her 40s who almost revels in rule-breaking and Mercy follows three twentysomething nurses, one of whom (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Michelle Trachtenberg) is just learning to do the job.

See Michelle Trachtenberg photos

"I think that audiences want to be interested in real life people. They don't want to sugar coat things," Trachtenberg told TVGuide.com.

The actress says she gained a new appreciation for nursing a few weeks ago when she was stung by a bee in New York City and needed medical assistance. She said a male nurse with a unicorn tattoo was the first to come to her aid.

"He was so lovely and so nice and the doctor was really cool too, but there was this amazing connection for me because here I am, I was like, 'I'm gonna be a nurse!' He got so excited that there was someone that was following their dream. I'm like, 'Well, for fakesies.'"

She tried without success to keep in touch — and hopes that her nurse gets the recognition he deserves.

"I asked for his number, and he was like, 'Honey, I'm taken," she joked. "My boyfriend was real happy I didn't stay in touch. But I hope he reads something and he's like, I'm the dude with the unicorn!"

Mercy debuts Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 8/7c.