"Mercedes" drives back into the drama Kingdom


"Mr. Mercedes" could easily have been a one-shot mini-series ... and a good one. But TV prefers series, so now it's back, opening Wednesday (Aug. 22). It has the same A-level writers (David Kelley adapting Stephen King) and the same stars ... but a much different approach, what with a key character being in a coma. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

A mind is a terrible
thing to wake.

At least, this mind
is. It belongs to Brady, who crashed a Mercedes-Benz into a crowd.

As the new “Mr.
Mercedes” season starts, he's been in a coma for a year.
Unfortunately, a scientist is doing experiments that could awaken
evil.

This is, after all,
a Stephen King tale; does that make it supernatural? Jack Bender, the
director, calls it “a character-rich show (that visits) what you
called 'supernatural,' but I'll call 'Stephen Kingdom.'”

All of that is
remixed by David Kelley, who's ranged from “Ally McBeal” to “The
Practice.” As actress Breeda Wool (who plays Brady's former work
colleague) says, for “Stephen King world, David Kelley is one hell
of a bridge.”

Kelley gave the
story a makeover, because the books' comtemplations were hard to
dramatize. He:

-- Juggled the plot,
to make retired cop Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) the main character.
In the first book, Bender said, Hodges “didn't come in ... until
about Page 250.”

-- Added a dream
scene in the season-opener, allowing Brady to walk, talk ... and even
dance. The goal, Bender said, was “to keep him active and not just
lying in a hospital bed.”

-- Manufactured a
major character, a neighbor who becomes Hodges' friend and
confidante. The old cop “needed to have some human being who is
dependable and sane and is some kind of safe haven,” said Holland
Taylor, who plays her.

Kelley also found
fun with a quirky character. Holly Gibney (Justine Lupe) is Hodges'
young, obsessive-compulsive partner in the Finders Keepers detective
agency.

“Every one of
these characters has challenges,” Bender said, but hers “are a
little more on the outside.”

Holland's character
even asks: “How weird are you?” In the “Stephen Kingdom,”
that's a key question.

-- “Mr. Mercedes,”
10 p.m. Wednesdays, Audience Network, via DirecTV or AT&T
U-verse; second season starts Aug. 22