It’s almost impossible to think that creator Jenna Bans didn’t pitch her new medical dramedy, Off the Map,“Grey’s Anatomy in the jungle!” How else could one describe a show set in a South American jungle, in which the leading humanitarian in the world nevertheless finds time to keep his rippling torso in full ripple (not to mention an excuse to reveal it to the new doctors)?
But Bans took no chances with her first episode. Sketchily introducing the three new doctors, good girl Lily (Caroline Dhavernas), flustered Mina (Mamie Gummer, who would be burned to a crisp in that sun after two hours) and party boy Tommy (Zach Gilford), Bans immediately sends all three spinning through ridiculous plot twists. Tommy is punished for having been a slacker during college by one of the many oddly angry doctors already on-site, by being sent to pay a house call on a woman suffering from tuberculosis. Lily has to cut a man down from a zipline, where he is dangling with a piece of his arm trapped in the machinery. And Mina thinks that tennis elbow might be a tropical disease.
As they grapple with their new sweaty lives and jobs, Zita (Valerie Cruz) bitches incessantly about American doctors coming in, while Ben (Martin Henderson, he of the ripply bod) flashes charm and a MacGuyver-esque attitude towards medicine. But just in case we haven’t had enough whirlwind drama, the first episode ends with the reappearance of Ryan (Rachelle Lefevre, who has gone from CBS’ quickly canceled Swingtown to ABC’s DOAThe Deep End), who had fled earlier in the episode only to return to the clinic and Ben’s bed.
Equal parts ludicrous and boring, Off the Map takes all of the worst excesses of sexy doctor shows and exaggerates them. Lily, Mina and Tommy all have tedious backstories that prompted them to seek out a clean slate in the jungle; the three older doctors are all exactly the type that keep people away from hospitals. BeforeGrey’s Anatomy started dealing in ghost sex, it was a soap opera with recognizably flawed and fumbling characters. Off the Map seems like a show written by committee to appeal to as many tastes as possible, which of course appeals to no one.
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