My relationship with Grey’s Anatomy is a troubled one. I love it, yet it causes me pain, letting me down over and over, just to charm its way back into my heart every time I vow that this is its last chance. When it is good it makes you fall in love with the characters and actually makes you feel a bit better about the world. But when it’s bad, it feels like it’s personally letting you down, somehow breaching your trust and forcing you to accept that this world is not real.
So it was with some nervousness that I settled in to watch Off the Map, “from the producers of Grey’s Anatomy”. Judging it in its own rights is gonna be tricky, but given the crossover in production teams and the massive advertising push linking the two shows, I figure no one is really going to mind.
The show really is just Grey’s Anatomy in the jungle – for better or for worse. You’ve got the same basic structure of young, cocky, new doctors finding out that they know pretty much nothing about how to practice medicine or about how to function as human beings. Meanwhile you’ve got the more senior experienced medics who have their own relationship, medical and organisational issues. All the characters are surrounded in a fog of flirting and personal angst while bouncing from one far-fetched melodramatic medical case to another. If you didn’t like it in Grey’s, then unless you’re going to be swung by some pretty scenery, you’re not going to like it here.
Independent of whether you like the style of the show, the pilot had a number of other problems. The elements of the plot are all pretty contrived, confrontations feeling artificially created from the start. Our three newbies are supposed to be there to learn, and the elders do talk about teaching, but most of the ‘teaching’ seems to be about patronising them, setting them up to fail and then shouting at them when they don’t know the thing that no one has actually bothered to explain to them. It’s frustrating to watch. They’re also laying it on a little thick with the pan pipes and the strategic use of Spanish when it is convenient for the plot that people don’t understand each other. There’s a few production issues as well that are a bit of a shame – some questionable continuity and issues with time that don’t quite make sense. I suspect it was edited about a bit and some stuff got lost in the shuffle. It’s just a bit shoddy.
Are the characters on a par with those on Grey’s? I think they may actually get there, within a short period of time they three junior doctors each actually have a chance to show that they’ve got histories, strengths, passions, flaws, empathy and talent. I know Caroline Dhavernas and Zach Gilford, from Wonderfalls and Friday Night Lights respectively and they have proven history of being able to deliver the range of comedy and drama that we’ve come to expect from Shonda Rhimes’ characters, but if anything it was unknown Mamie Gummer who made me love her most. (OH! She’s Meryl Streep’s daughter! That explains a lot!) I was considerably less impressed with the older characters, they came across as bitchy, authoritarian and smug – hopefully they’ll prove themselves to be human beings in the next couple of episodes.
I’m trying to remember how I felt about Grey’s Anatomy when I first saw it. When I go back to watch the pilot now it seems special, as if the brilliance is already there, but maybe that’s rose-tinted memories. I didn’t see the same spark in Off the Map, but I do see a potential that I didn’t see in Private Practice, the more direct spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy. I’m certainly going to stick with Off the Map for a while, I’m hoping it doesn’t let me down.
TV Addict – If you already enjoy her other shows, GREY’S ANATOMY and PRIVATE PRACTICE, do not assume you’ll like OFF THE MAP – this show is plodding, disingenuous, and a waste of talent.
CliqueClack – I cannot wait to see more, to find out what other interesting cases are lurking on the island. Their space is so confined, and yet completely different than what we have seen in any recent medical shows; seemingly, the sky’s the limit.