Sexy Doctors! Jungles!
That is how I ended up watching “Off the Map,” a show whose noncommittal shrug of a title I forgot three times while watching.
And yet at the end of that hour, I was pleasantly surprised. It was Not Bad. Not great – you could live a long happy life without ever knowing this show existed – but a charming enough diversion.
The show did for doctor shows what “The Unusuals” did for cop shows: Nothing crazy, just a couple minor tweaks to the formula and some decent acting. So naturally I expect it to be off the air by the end of February.
Obviously there’s a ton of “This is what our show is” going on here (to borrow from the AV Club’s Rowan Kaiser, “This is Pilotville, and Mayor Exposition has a speech he’d like to give you”), but I’ve learned to accept it as a requirement and try to find the show’s merits, even when it’s sitting next to some head-bashingly stupid moments. Walk with me and I’ll show you what I was thinking as the show went by.
Opening with the hilariously vague “Somewhere in South America,” signaling to geography-deficient audiences, “Look, don’t worry about it,” followed by an amusing guttural scream, followed by three doctors (we know they’re doctors because they all have stethoscopes, and are all attractive, as TV doctors always are unless they’re obnoxious bureaucrats who we later learn also care about the PATIENTS, dammit) mocking the person in danger, each other, and the soon to arrive new cast members.
The two male doctors jump off a cliff into the ocean to rescue the screaming man. Jeez guys, you were like a foot from the cliff face.
Heeeey, Caroline Dhavernas from “Wonderfalls,” bringing a winning smile and…hard not to notice…a pretty great push-up bra.
Three new cast members introduce themselves by name – pretty much guaranteeing that I will recall none of their names, especially when it takes me half the scene to remember the one guy’s Matt Saracen from “Friday Night Lights.”
THE…I DUNNO YET
An expository walk-and-talk explaining the premise of the show. You gotta get it out of the way, so you might as well keep the camera moving while you do it. “Forget all you learned in your residency!” You should probably keep a few things in your memory, actually.
“Doctor Otis Cole…his bark’s worse than his bite.” If I were trying to make an intimidating impression on rookie doctors in a harsh environment, and my colleague undercut me like this, I would slap him so hard just to reestablish dominance.
“Just admiring his…credentials.” Oh, so it’s gonna be one of those shows.
THE AGGRESSIVELY STUPID
Matt Saracen just asked what “gringo” means. Because when you want to get characterization out of the way with a minimum of fuss, go with “staggeringly dumb.”
Cole tells the overworked, annoyed nurse that she’s got a heart of gold, just to save viewers the time of wondering.
Oh god, the patient’s monologuing about how he “waited too long.”
THE CHARACTER-DEFINING CONFLICT, IN CASE YOU ARE SLOW
Matt Saracen: What was I supposed to DO?
Cole: You were SUPPOSED TO BE A DOCTOR!
Caroline Dahvernas’s patient is still goddamn monologuing. His wife’s ashes are in his dufflebag or something. “Life sure has a way of changing your plans, though…” DO YOU GET IT, AUDIENCE?
I think this whole show is just ABC’s way of weaning us off “Lost” by showing us the same “trek through the Hawaiian jungle” shots but without arriving at some mysterious bunker.
THE MONOLOGUING FOR THE SAKE OF MONOLOGUING AWARD
Matt Saracen passionately explains his entire backstory to a guy he KNOWS speaks no English. But somehow, the guy just GETS IT.
HORSES NOT ZEBRAS, ONE MORE TIME
Every medical show uses this line, but at least this one had the sense to have the listener (the third newbie doctor, whose name I have already forgotten and so shall be The Pale One) roll her eyes.
THING I HOPE WILL STOP SOON
Characters talking at length to people who clearly don’t speak any English, just for the sake of the audience at home.
THE SELLING-IT AWARD
Even though it’s massively stupid and medically dangerous, Caroline Dhavernas really brought it with her impassioned speech about getting her patient’s wife’s ashes to the exotic glowy fish lake.
THE TRYING TOO HARD TO SET UP SEXUAL TENSION AWARD
Matt Saracen and blond doctor talk about the circumstances in which they might have sex. They will have sex by the third episode, or I owe you guys a coke.
Using stars as a metaphor to “keep going” is…just not good.
THE TERRIBLY ANNOYING PLOTLINE I’M SURE WE’LL BE FOLLOWING UP ON
Something something Hunky Aussie Doctor’s ex-girlfriend doctor is back bla bla bla
ENDING SCENE THAT DRIVES ME NUTS
Jumping off a cliff. Seriously. That’s just stupid. KNOCK IT OFF, OR YOU WILL DIE.
And since we’ve now covered “The Cape” and (jesus I just forgot the name again) “Off the Map,” I suppose we’ll make it a hat-trick and cover “The Chicago Code,” the new Fox cop show from Tim Minear and Shawn Ryan, late of “Terriers” (a show which 500,000 people will tell you was so, so great), later this month.