January 14, 2011
I watched the first two seasons of Grey's Anatomy and while I don't think I'd ever have the desire to re-watch any of those early episodes, I did enjoy it back then. But by the time Meredith and Derek had broken up for the 15th time at the end of the second season, I could see that Shonda Rhimes was someone who was going to put all of her eggs in the manufactured-drama-at-the-expense-of-likable-characters-and-believable-story-telling basket. I stuck with the show for another season but by the time I bailed I'd grown to hate it quite a lot.
When I heard they'd be spinning off Addison, I was pretty happy because she was the only thing about the third season of Grey's that I actually liked. I tuned in to Private Practice and in the first season there were a handful of things that I kind of liked but none of them was Addison. In minutes, Shonda Rhimes had managed to turn an awesome character into such a whiny, preachy, annoying, pain in the ass (and, sweet pickles on my sandwich, Naomi was even WORSE!). The first season hadn't even wrapped yet when I realized that Shonda Rhimes shows and I were never going to make it work long-term.
Now comes Off The Map which I wouldn't have watched at all except that they cast Zach Gilford and he's one of those people that I love so much, I have to watch every single thing they do. So fine, I watched. I usually get at least a partial season's worth of enjoyment out of these Shondaland shows, right? Wrong.
This time it was all Shonda-fied right from the jump. Or maybe I've just grown weary and can spot the signs early? Either way, the show is a mess. Let's start with the fact that most of the characters are unlikable. Martin Henderson's Ben Keeton is supposed to be the hot, brilliant, humanitarian who runs the place. I found him to be completely insufferable and not nearly attractive enough to warrant the level of fawning he got from the new lady docs. Otis Cole (Jason George) is fawningly attractive but only gets that sort of attention from Zita (Valarie Cruz). He's also given so little to do that it's embarrassing for him. Zita is a doctor but she mostly just spent the pilot bitching about how none of the newbie docs know Spanish.
Speaking of the newbies, that's Lily (Caroline Dhavernas), Mina (Mamie Gummer) and Tommy (Gilford). Lily is the Dr. Cameron of the set having joined this Doctors Without Borders-style clinic program to get over the death of her fiance. Mina is the resident over-achiever who over-achieved herself out of sleep, made a tragic mistake and was kicked out of her residency and has subsequently come down to South America to prove she's awesome. Tommy is a newly minted plastic surgeon whose history as a party-boy screw-up has followed him to the jungle where he's come mostly for the beaches. These roles are so far beneath the talents of the three actors playing them it's sad.
If you don't believe me that the show is filled to the brim with utter ridiculousness, allow me to highlight some of the main plot-points for you: after suffering grave injuries during a ziplining accident, a man requires emergency surgery to remove and repair several organs that are causing him to bleed out internally. When the clinic runs out of blood to transfuse him with, Dr. Save-The-World runs out of surgery and scales a tree, then promptly returns to transfuse the patient with coconut water. The patient is miraculously saved by this jungle medicine and just before he's air-lifted back to civilization, Lily insists the medivac helicopter wait a while while they trek the ailing main into the jungle, then row him out into the middle of a freaking lake full of phosphorescent creepy crawlies so he can dump his wife's ashes - AND THEY DO IT! Tommy tells a native man his sob story about how his parents wanted the best for him and he told them to fuck themselves and somehow this convinces the non-English-speaking man to take medicine he was stridently against a moment before. Oh, and most unbelievable of all, Mina asserts that she wouldn't have sex with Tommy if they were the last two people on earth.
On the off-chance this show gets better in the second episode, and because there aren't enough opportunities to see Zach Gilford on my television since Matt Saracen went away to college, I'm probably going to watch at least one more episode but, I have very low expectations.