Off the Map: Not Just Sexy Doctors in the Jungle
By Morgan Shanahan on January 20, 2011
I grew up on medical dramas. General Hospital, ER, Chicago Hope... if it's lead characters used a scalpel and it was produced in the '90s, you can bet your bottom I watched it. Still, last week, ABC's OFF THE MAP broke the mold on medical dramas.
Created by Jenna Bans and produced by go-to gals for medidrams, Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers, OTM does actually appear to be something new. (Seriously. I'm that committed to this show -- I'm already abbreviating it.) Sure, we're still dealing with cream of the crop/insanely attractive doctors, but this time, there's a twist. These McDoctors lack the advantages of modern medicine or machinery. Instead, OTM takes the benevolence of its cast of characters to the next level and explores the ins and outs of saving lives in remote corners of the world ala “Doctors Without Borders.” The tropical locale is complete with sick natives, ziplines through jungles, and a fluorescent algae lake. Obviously.
Jungle stereotypes aside, the location and circumstance inevitably forces the doctors to improvise. This inherent creativity -- for both the show’s writers and the characters themselves -- is what makes OTM stand out from other medi-drams for me.
Image courtesy ABC.
Last week’s series premiere followed the three newbies joining the jungle crew: Dr. Lily Brennan (Caroline Dhavernas), the n’er-do-well Girl Scout of the group; Dr. Mina Minard (Mamie Gummer), an infectious disease specialist who's ambition puts Christina Yang to shame; and Dr. Tommy Fuller (Zach Gilford), who hard-partied his way through medical school to ultimately become, you guessed it, a plastic surgeon. Useful skill for the jungle, right? I just might be the most amped up about his trajectory. We'll see.
Episode two -- "Smile, Don't Kill Anyone" -- delivered as promised. Minus some gratuitous needle/wound closeups, which -- what is up with that? Do Shonda and Co seriously think I watch these shows because I love guts and gore? But I digress. Back in the jungle, the “newbies” learned that medicine in the wild isn’t just about medicine, a plot line that OTM will surely continue to distinguish itself from other medical dramas. I loved getting a glimpse of the doctors’ motivations for leaving their old lives behind, and I can't wait to see what kind of Addison Montgomery Shepherd shocker Bans and Rhimes come up with to bring that drama to the jungle. Plus, we've never seen the staff at Seattle Grace battling a 12-foot Anaconda... which the OTM team has already knocked off their plot line bucket list after only two airings.
TVFanatic agrees with me. C. Orlando sums up what sets Off the Map apart from the other tried-and-true medical drama formulas:
"Off The Map looks like it is ready to deliver the romance and drama that fans expect while ditching the one thing I’ve never liked about medical shows: the drab hospital. I’m prepared to see where this exotic adventure takes us.
I mean, how many of us haven’t dreamed about escaping to a remote tropical island, away from our phones, computers, and tv’s? Plus, a little exotic romance couldn’t hurt, either."
Meanwhile, TelevisionWithoutPity offers a hilariously snarky scene by scene recap of the show (which even they can't deny is good).
Have you been watching? What do you think of Off The Map?
Morgan (The818) is a blogger and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. She overshares her personal life - complete with curse words - at The818.com, talks art and design over at Cargoh.com, and tweets: @the818.
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