Off the Map, "Saved By the Great White Hope": hide your kids, hide your wife

Quick Take: Off the Map, "Saved By the Great White Hope"
Off the Map is just what you'd expect: Grey's Anatomy in the rain forest.The cast of Off the MapReview: Off the Map, "Saved By the Great White Hope"
(S0101) What a stellar cast that has been put together for Off the Map, ABC's new medical drama.  We have Caroline Dhavernas (Wonderfalls), Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights), and Mamie Gummer (The Good Wife) as the newbies, fresh to the rain forest. Jason George (Eli Stone, Grey's Anatomy, What About Brian?) is the rank old doc, while Martin Henderson (Big Sky) is the hot one all the girls want to sleep with. Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight, What About Brian?) barely got introduced in the pilot, but she's one that I'm a fan of, too. Toss in Valerie Cruz (True Blood, Dexter), and we've got a show that looks great on paper.

The best part is, they also look good on screen.  I was hooked only minutes into the first episode.  Each of the characters has a past, and each lights up the screen with charm and talent.  The trademark Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice) touch is there, though Rhimes is merely a producer, not the creator, of this show. Never mind that, though, because it's clearly Grey's Anatomy in the rain forest, far away from the equipment and drugs that make modern medicine so helpful.

Three newbies have arrived, which leaves Zita less than happy.  Why would she be joyful?  Just when she gets a new batch of docs trained, they take off, wasting her time and effort.  I have a feeling that these three won't, because they're the stars of this show, and that would be kind of lame if they left quickly.  In fact, it would be awfully hard to keep viewers.  No, I have a feeling we'll see those temporary sorts in guest starring turns or small arcs, but the characters played by Dhavernas, Gilford, and Gummer will likely stick around.

Sure, TV has more than enough medical dramas on the air right now.  I totally get that sentiment.  However, the cool part about this one is the beautiful setting.  Instead of the sterile corridors, we get sweeping landscapes, including mountains, trees, and ocean.  It's filmed in Hawaii, so thinga are plenty authentic.  It may be a gimmick, but it's a good one.  If you have HD television, that may be half the draw of the show for you, as it is for me.

However, Off the Map does not get by on looks alone, either from the setting, or the actors, which are, admittedly, just as beautiful.  While you can certainly compare Dhavernas's Lily Brenner to Meredith Grey and Christina Yang, she also brings to life something that is definitely her own.  Yeah, Mertin Henderson is the jungle McDreamy, he's also rugged, foreign, and has issues of his own, which were only briefly touched on in Lefevre's only scene of note.  I don't know if the stories of these people will prove to be as engrossing as those of Seattle Grace, but they got off to a good start.

The past stuff brings back echoes of Lost, mostly because of the tropical location.  I hope Off the Map will not make flashbacks a staple.  Instead, having Gilford or Gummer talk about their past, is plenty.  What's even cooler is they can rant about whatever is bothering them, but due to the language barrier, no one may understand them but us, the viewer, and so secrets can be spilled in a realistic way to us, without necessarily bringing the other characters in on them.

I thought the first episode seemed honest and special.  Maybe not earthshattering, but certainly something I'd like to watch again.  Please tune in to Off the Map Wednesday nights at 10:00 on ABC.

Video: Off the Map, "Saved By the Great White Hope"
Check out the series premiere in full from Hulu, while available: 

By Jerome Wetzel

About the author

Jerome Wetzel also writes TV reviews for Examiner and BlogCritics. He is an avid TV fan, and wants to cover as much as possible.  He has written fiction, as well, and is currently working on his series, An Actor's Nightmare.

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3 Comments
On: Thursday, January 13, 2011
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

I hope this show stays on the air if only so that Caroline Dhavernas gets the recognition she deserves. Wonderfalls was an absolutely magical show and she was a big reason for it. The rest of the cast too as you mention is pretty damned strong all round as well (and obviously Gilford is a budding star in his own right). 

I've never been a huge fan of medical shows so I probably won't be tuning into Off the Map very often. I feel like I know exactly what I'd be getting from your review as you've set things up perfectly, awesome job Jerome !

On: Thursday, January 13, 2011
Jerome Wetzel said:

Thank you!  I try. :)

On: Thursday, January 13, 2011
Matt Saracen said:

I got about 12 minutes into this show and that was about all I could stomach. Off The Map is typical, network drek. Give it 6 week and we are going to be calling the show Off The Air. What a waste of Zach Gilford. Keep your head up QB1, you'll find another good show that deserves your talents. And Julie Taylor was a slut all along, she didn't deserve you.

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