Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pilot Review: Off the Map

Off the Map (ABC)
Premiered January 12 at 10pm

A lot of people love “Grey’s Anatomy.” While I have no desire to watch it week-to-week, I find it easier to bear than most other programming of the sort (especially those shows that air on CW). What distinguishes “Grey’s Anatomy,” however, is that it was an original series rather than a remake that has spawned multiple similar incarnations, transplanting the soapiness of the plotlines and promiscuity of the characters into some new setting. This is ABC’s third attempt in two years, after the space-set “Defying Gravity” and the law-oriented “The Deep End.” Now, we’re back to medicine but our characters have been transplanted to “somewhere in South America.” The pilot is fully loaded with flawed characters bursting with the desire to tell their innermost secrets to the people around them that they can’t stand but will likely end up sleeping with sooner or later. I see no reason why at least one of these characters could be a normal person just trying to pursue their dream, and the emphasis on making each of them very specific character tropes with sensational back stories is irritating at best. The “off the map” setting leads to equally extravagant plotlines, and it’s hard to take it seriously. It may be better than the CW’s “Life is Wild,” but only slightly. It’s a horrific waste of talent, also, even if it’s just the three interns who I can certify are capable of much more than this. Caroline Dhavernas will forever be immortalized as Jaye Tyler of FOX’s short-lived “Wonderfalls,” and she’s better at playing wacky than just the good girl. Mamie Gummer, also known as Meryl Streep’s daughter, did a great job guesting on “The Good Wife” as a lawyer and shouldn’t be stuck in South America where she’s forced to have sex (eventually, of course) in order for the plot move forward. Fans of “Friday Night Lights” will surely agree that Zach Gilford should not under any circumstances be playing a partier plastic surgeon. As far as the established doctors go, Valerie Cruz was infinitely better in the first half-season of “Nip/Tuck” than she is here. With a wasted cast and poor plotlines, there isn’t anywhere for this show to go, even in the middle of nowhere.

How will it work as a series? The pilot takes the idea that these hotshot young doctors have no idea what’s in store for them in South America and runs with it for an excessively long time. I imagine that the show will be more of the same, and it’s not as if new cast members can rotate in too much, so we’re stuck with this bunch, which, aside from Rachelle Lefevre at the very end, don’t seem too interesting.
How long will it last? It’s hard to judge the pilot because it aired after President Obama’s speech at the Tucson memorial service. Based on the two recent efforts by ABC, I don’t see this one making it to the fall. Being behind ABC’s two-hour comedy block might help it, but it could also hurt since it’s considerably less impressive and less enjoyable.

Pilot grade: F

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