Last night, ABC premiered the third show in the Shondaland universe, Off the Map, which isn't exactly a spin-off of either Grey's Anatomy or Private Practice but it does feel a lot like both of them.

The Pitch

Off the Map is Grey's Anatomy meets Northern Exposure meets Lost

The Set Up

It's exactly what you think from the promos: three young doctors show up in the jungle to work at a small clinic and battle disease, the elements, each other and their hunky mentors. They all have some specific and tortured reason for having gotten to this point and the pilot plays out in really predictable rhythms of adversity and triumphs over same.

One character, played by Zach Gilford of Friday Night Lights is there because he partied too much in college, spent medical school learning to do boob jobs and then his parents weren't proud of him. Another character, played by Meryl Streep's daughter Mamie Gummer, is there because she accidentally killed a kid back home and got thrown out of her residency program, which seems a bit of a stretch but whatever. And the main character, the one who is there to fall in love with the hunky white lead, is there for a reason that isn't made clear until the end, but gets pretty heavily foreshadowed in this scene with an injured tourist played by Michael McKean.

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Cringe Factor (out of 10)


This show is really the epitome of all those primetime soaps about how difficult it is to be a feeling person while trying to do a particular job. There isn't a scrap of anything that could remotely be referred to as an "issue" here at all. When ER spent a few subplots in seasons 10 through 12 approximating Doctors Without Borders, there were actual issues being discussed, like quality of care, political issues, lots of interesting shit. Here, the only time "cultural differences" even make an appearances are when Gilford has to talk a guy into giving his kids medicine, but it just degenerates into a spiel about his history. The scene exemplyfies what the show will always do: filter the experience through the egotism of the characters and that makes it really lacking, in my opinion: instead of making the scene about the different ways in which people and cultures address medicine and health care, it's just about Gilford's history and struggle.

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Over/Under for Cancellation

2 seasons

Or it could be off in six episodes, it's really hard to tell with something like this. On the one hand, the show has everything that it takes to stay on the air and play off the success of other Shondaland shows, Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. On the other, viewers might be completely bored of this kind of storytelling, they might find it such a derivative piece of crap that it never latches on and disappears. The downfall of giving the audience nothing more than the struggle of the characters to latch on to is that you have nothing to fall back on should the characters not connect with the audience.