TV on My Terms: Doctors Without Bed Hoppers

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Have you ever wanted a fresh start?

To just chuck it all and move to some faraway place where no one knows you, in an effort to escape the difficulties of your present, somehow right the perceived wrongs in your life and learn to become an altogether different person?

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Imagine if the former interns of Seattle Grace looked into their hearts, became disgusted by the frivolity with which they lived their indulgent lives and saw that their entire existences had been wrapped up in an angst-ridden pursuit of their own interests at all costs, making them reevaluate their current course and decide to do some soul searching in a place where neither luxury nor bureaucracy exist; their sole purpose being to provide help to those less fortunate under the most extreme and sometimes dangerous circumstances.

That is what I perceive to be Shonda Rhimes' vision for her new ABC series, Off The Map.

I'll be honest: I expected to be filled with the same disdain and boredom for Off The Map that I feel for Rhimes' other series, Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, respectively. 

I watched the first couple of seasons of Grey's Anatomy, like everyone else did, and I eventually just became repulsed by the characters' constant whining and "me me me" mentalities - not to mention the unbelievable way they turned Seattle Grace into a brothel.  I mean seriously - seriously! - it's a hospital. That can't be sanitary.

I never found any of the characters on Private Practice to be particularly engaging, with the sole exception of perhaps Paul Adelstein's Coop, but he wasn't enough to keep me interested. It was just... boring. Plus, I got the distinct impression that they were going to put way too much emphasis on Addison's libido, and I'd already seen plenty of that on Grey's.

So color me surprised, and impressed, when I sat down to watch ABC screeners for Off The Map.  It is a medical drama, yes, but bears virtually no resemblance to its predecessors. And, for that, I am extremely grateful.

Off the Map Scene

The series centers on three young doctors, Lily, the "girl scout," Mina, the cynic, and Tommy, the fratboy, who all arrive at a small South American medical clinic and start to learn the unconventional methods with which they must practice "tropical" medicine.  Each is haunted by ghosts (figuratively, no Denny here) of the lives they left behind and have their own reasons for wanting to start anew.

There is, refreshingly, not a repellent character in the bunch. In fact, I'm already captivated by each one.  If I had to pick a favorite, so far, I'd have to go with Friday Night Lights' Zach Gilford as Tommy.  The back story he relates of the life he's running away from is the most compelling, and he has some very well-written speeches.  Mamie Gummer as Mina is a close second, because her sarcasm and constant eye-rolling at some of the situations she finds herself in bring some welcome humor.

I found the stories in the first two episodes engaging, particularly the one involving guest star Michael McKean. I'll spare the details so as not to spoil, but I think it's safe to say that was one of the most uniquely breathtaking situations I've ever seen addressed on a medical drama.

There are some bits of romance and hints at future connections which worry me slightly.  I'm not saying romance doesn't have a place here, and in doses it could certainly add something to the story and character interaction. The last thing I want to see happen, though, is for the clinic to degenerate into one giant game of Lover's Roulette. Not all prime time dramas have to become flesh-flashing soap operas. I'm much more interested in the self discovery and internal struggles of these young doctors.  Here's hoping Rhimes keeps the bed-hopping to an absolute minimum.

Off The Map seems like it may just be the biggest, and most pleasantly entertaining, surprise of the 2010-2011 season. I'm eagerly looking forward to tuning in on a weekly basis, and highly recommend you do the same.

Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Saad702

To the author: grey's anatomy and private practice are brilliant! You feel disdain for the core plot line of self involved doctors. Why do you think shonda created both series? To just be about medicine? Thats just a device used for the ensuing drama! They are brilliant shows with interesting characters. Incl coop and charlotte. No recent show has handled a rape case the way it has been handled on private practice. I understand those are your opinions and these are mine. Thats how I would like to tv to be. On the terms it has already been!

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Yes, I also hope it does not end like Greys Anatomy and leaves the romance out as much as possible. Looks good so far. Mamie Gummer is my favorite.

Blu

I'm looking forward to it. I am a fan of Grey's, not so much with Private Practice. Even as a fan of Grey's I can admit that the constant bedhopping and whining, and level of self consumedness is ridiculous and annoying. Mostly why I can't stand the two main characters Mer and Der. I also watch Private Practice on occasion but I find it very dull and boring. I've been looking forward to this series so I'm happy to see that it promises something refreshing and I may have actually picked my favorite character by description alone, already. Gotta love a snarkette, so Mina you're it; )

Addict666

im excited for this

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I'm going to give this show a shot for a few episodes.....i love greys(mostly) and i've kept up on private practice(especially this and last season)....i dont want all the bed hopping either, but if theres a great spark with a couple i wont complain if its explored. we'll see what happens. who knows? i might get hooked. :)

Tilly

I am not a fan of Grey's or Private Practice so I was going to skip this series too but I think I will give it a try now...thanks.

Matt-richenthal

@radu: Shonda led the Off the Map panel discussion today at the Television Critics Association press tour.
Not sure how you define what makes a series one's own, but she is as involved with Off the Map as she was at the beginning of both Grey's and Private Practice. No single person is ever in charge of a show - but the executive producer is as much of a program boss as there can be.

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Off the mapp is not Shonda Rhime's series!!!she is just an executive producer of the show!Do your homework

Off the Map Quotes

Practicing tropical medicine in a third-world country is a different game... You don't have high tech, you don't have big pharma - you have your brain, you have your instincts.

Ben

They don't give a crap about the work. They're just padding their resumes with a little third world do gooding.

Otis
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