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August 29, 2015

'Off the Map' Will Look (Too) Familiar to Fans of 'Grey's Anatomy'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Jan 11th 2011 1:00PM
The title of the mid-season medical drama 'Off the Map' (10PM ET Wednesday, ABC) is highly ironic.

Once you find out that 'Grey's Anatomy' creator Shonda Rhimes is one of the show's executive producers, you know exactly what the layout of this drama is going to be: Sexy surgeons with good hair (and better abs) will nurture secret pain; hot young doctors will learn Important Life Lessons while working on challenging medical cases.

You don't need a map for this show: Its blueprints are visible on Rhimes' other dramas, 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Private Practice.' But if you like the television comfort food offered by those soapy dramas, you might be best off sticking with them. Despite its exotic setting, 'Off the Map' offers nothing new and the whole venture is relentlessly predictable.

Zach Gilford, Caroline Dhavernas and Mamie Gummer play three young doctors who come to a remote clinic in South America to learn about tropical medicine from a rugged frontier physician who is, of course, super hot. This trio of young actors are so innately winning that you want to like their characters, but it's almost flinch-inducing to see Gilford, the amazingly skilled emotional lynchpin of 'Friday Night Lights,' play a by-the-numbers playboy plastic surgeon. He's he kind of guy who makes a comment about a co-worker's breasts minutes after meeting her and talks about "getting [his] swim on." 'FNL's' Matt Saracen deserves better than this kind of clunky dialogue.

Gummer and Gilford are called upon in the first two episodes to make the kind of painful personal confessions that are supposed to get the audience invested in their characters, but even these actors couldn't quite get me to buy what the show was selling, given that all the emotional beats of their stories are easy to predict. No matter how many times the show piles on another complication for the patients of the week, everything about the characters and the cases has a been-there, done-that feeling, and that rote quality is not mitigated by the occasional acknowledgement of the show's jungle setting. (Did you know that many medicinal substances can be found in the rainforest? Well, actually, you probably did.)

'Off the Map' has the occasional effective moment: Rhimes and creator Jenna Bans (a veteran of 'Grey's') know how to yank on the old heartstrings, and the cathartic moments aren't always resistible even if you see the emotional manipulations coming a mile away. Yet nothing about the doctors' unrequited loves or personal baggage feels fresh, even if the medical cases come together in a somewhat more energetic fashion in the show's second episode.

The two surprising things about 'Off the Map' are that the show, especially the pilot, has a lot of tin-eared, unintentionally hilarious dialogue ("You're supposed to be a doctor!"). Given that 'Grey's' is generally a little more frisky in that department, it's surprising that the 'Map' scripts are so painfully earnest.

The other surprising thing is that the central character, Lily (who's played by Dhavernas), is far from a Meredith Grey clone, despite the fact that Lily is another quietly ambitious brunette with a secret stash of unprocessed grief. Like the show, Lily unfortunately comes across as a bland copy of what came before.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Eludium Q36

Agree with cfaddct, seems like the series' creator's initial vision was to do a "Grey's" framed by "LOST". Women will eat this shut up.

January 12 2011 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Lost" meets "Grey's Anatomy" meets "Private Practice" meets "The Event" meets "Flash Forward" meets "Gilligan's Island". That's what I got out of the promos I've seen for this show. I predict a quick hook by ABC.

January 12 2011 at 1:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would rather watch "The Son" over and over and over and over again than to watch successive episodes of anything Shonda Rhimes has a hand in.

January 11 2011 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ben Phelps

even if you ignore the rest of FNL and only count Zach Gilford's work in "The Son," it's clear he's much better than another medical procedural drama from the Shonda Rhimes factory

January 11 2011 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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