Which is not necessarily a bad thing: The first time I watched “Off The Map,” I dismissed it as just another sexy doctor show produced by TV superstar Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes created “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice,” redefining our idea of medical dramas and prime-time soap operas. Rhimes didn’t create “Off The Map” (that credit belongs to Jenna Bans, who is a producer and writer on “Grey’s”), but she is executive producing it. And her influence is all over this new show.
At first, I amused myself by looking for character counterparts to my (I’ll admit it) beloved Seattle Grace doctors. It was a little too easy. I mean, an overly competitive female doctor who has trouble expressing affection? Check. A charming, ruggedly attractive older doctor who wears bandanas during surgery? Double check! Throw in a cocky plastic surgeon and a fresh-faced pretty doctor with a secret past and you’ve got half the cast of “Grey’s”... and half the cast of “Off The Map.”
It’s easy to dismiss Off The Map as unrealistic or sensationalistic (don’t worry, that’s totally a word), but if you did you’d be missing out on some of the things that make “Off The Map” into an entertaining (if not particularly high-brow) TV show.
1) The cast and characters
“Off The Map” stars Zach Gilford (also known as QB 1, Matt Saracen on “Friday Night Lights”) as the aforementioned cocky plastic surgeon. This role is markedly different from Matt Saracen (for one thing, Tommy has a lot more sex than Matt), and it was exciting for me to see an actor I know play a character so different from his previous role.
Fans of “Dexter” will recognize Valerie Cruz from the third season, where she played Sylvia, the wife of DA Miguel Prado. In “Off The Map,” Cruz is Zee, a feisty Hispanic doctor who acts as the mother hen to the group (much like Bailey, except she is much, much more approachable, and no one has given her a questionable nickname)
And lest I forget, Mamie Gummer (who up until now was probably best known as Meryl Streep’s daughter) is also a regular. Gummer plays the blonde version of Cristina Yang (her name is Menard). Menard supplies more quirky humor than Cristina does, however, and even though she comes across as an ice queen, her uncertainty pokes through and humanizes her.
2) The plot-lines
Hear me out. Next week’s episode focuses on the fact that the clinic has been robbed of all their medicines! And they have to do surgery! But this man has to be awake the entire time! It’s like that scene in “Gone With The Wind” where Scarlett runs out of the hospital because she just can’t handle it anymore.
The kicker is, every episode is like this. A girl has to have her leg amputated underwater! A hiker is being crushed to death by an anaconda! Some guy totally just got electrocuted! And you know what? They deliver on the drama every week. Is it cheesy? A little. Is it overdone? Kind of. Did it keep me and my roommate on the edges of our seats for an entire hour? Yeah, but we’re only harsh judges when it comes to sit-coms, so it’s hard to tell.
3) The scenery
Watching “Off The Map” is like watching “Lost” all over again, except without Kate or the continuous promise of “someday we’ll explain everything!” (spoiler alert, there’s still a lot of stuff left unsaid). What I mean to say is, the scenery is gorgeous. Waterfalls and jungles and men (and women) with their shirts sticking to their bodies because of sweat... “Off The Map” is 80% medical drama and 20% eye candy (give or take 10%), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’re looking for a though-provoking, serious one hour drama, tune into Mad Men (actually, you should tune into Mad Men regardless, because it’s awesome). But if you’re looking for something cool to watch after “Modern Family” and “Mr. Sunshine,” look no further. In fact, you don’t even need to change the channel: just watch “Off The Map.”