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The Medical Drama Returns: A Review of “Off the Map”

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“Off the Map”: Television Review

The Cast of Off the MapAs with most of the TV shows I end up being an ardent fan of, I was lukewarm about ABC’s midseason, jungle medical drama, “Off the Map,” when I saw it advertised. The show boasts plenty of eye candy with Martin Henderson as Dr. Benjamin “Ben” Keeton, giving McDreamy a run for his money–he’s pretty McHot, if we’re keeping with the McDonald’s theme. He’s a serious, tall, dark, handsome brooder if you like that type. And speaking of which, there’s also Jason Winston George, as Dr. Otis Cole to tune in for.

These two big brooding handsome docs have their own secrets and loves, which are unveiled in the first season. Neither are as tough as they come off being either. Then there’s Zach Gilford as the quirky and awkward Dr. Tommy Fuller–the nerd who wasn’t necessarily the smartest kid, but the one who tripped over himself and everything else—a lot. He adds comic relief, but manages to prove his mettle–that he’s not just a know nothing Plastics pseudo-doc.

Perhaps it was the thought of yet another show about doctors (did we really need another one?), but as a 14-year “ER” fan (I skipped the first season, regretting it), I felt no other medical drama could ever top its stark and often gut-wrenching realism. So far, none has even come close, before “Off the Map.”

The show also has a handful of capable and beautiful women doctors or as is said often to the Spanish speaking patients: doctoras. Rounding out the cast is: Valerie Cruz, as Zita Alareina “Zee” Toledo Alvarez, Zee is a local who runs the clinic with Keaton and Cole and does her best to keep everyone in line.

Caroline Dhavernas, as Dr. Lily Brenner and Mamie Gummer, as Dr. Mina Minard are this year’s new residents along with Tommy. Brenner is a rock-star, which pisses off Minard, who is somewhat of a bitch to everyone, because she prefers to “work alone,” which is like spitting on the team effort mantra of the jungle clinic. Rachelle Lefevre, as Dr. Ryan Clark has been with the clinic a while; having come as a resident like the others. She’s involved with Keaton and has secrets of her own, which don’t become wholly evident for several episodes.

Jonathan Castellanos as Charlie is a local teen who hangs around the clinic; he wants to become a doctor and is “in training.” Charlie was abandoned by his parents a child, and “adopted” by the docs at the clinic. He’s taken to following Tommy around since his arrival.

I didn’t tune in until about episode four on the urging of a friend who was enthralled by “Off the Map” and insisted I watch it—we had a standing Thursday night “ER” date for several years and pathetically cried at the series finale.

Though the show was good, it lacked something. I wasn’t connecting to the emotion it was inspiring in my friend. Then I watched episodes two and three and was getting hooked. I was beginning to understand what she was talking about. I really needed to see the first episode. Unfortunately, it was no longer available on

Because I so had to see the premiere episode at that point, I signed up for a seven day free-trial of Hulu Plus (whatever) to watch on my mobile device (not) and I watched the show. That did it, once I understood how everyone came to be there, what the backstory was, I saw the show in a new light and understood what my friend saw in it.

When the season ended, I discovered there is a possibility that “Off the Map” may be cancelled, because it didn’t receive good ratings, which surprised me. I have also read comments from viewers who didn’t like it and felt the storylines were “McGuyver-ish.”

After watching each episode, I didn’t see any accident or rescue mission that made me think it wasn’t a possibility. There were some unconventional occurrences, certainly; however, when in the jungle—the need to think outside-of-the-box is very high.

The characters are relatable, because they’re human and they’re flawed. They might be a little predictable, but there are only so many “types,” and we all fall into some category.

If you liked “ER” or any other popular medical drama—ever (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “House,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Trapper John M.D.,” “Northern Exposure,” not really, but great show about a doc, etc.) there are many more than the current ones on TV, give “Off the Map” a look-see. I think you’ll find it worthy of being in the same company as those that came before. It has blood and guts, off-the-hook cases, interesting interpersonal relationships, the characters have histories and are working out their personal demons in the jungle. Along the way they stumble, fall, and triumph. Sometimes big, sometimes small, some lives are saved and some are not. There is plenty more to be accomplished in the clinic, it’s too soon to close. I hope ABC will give this show a chance to find its audience and prove its worth.

Perhaps those who were bored with it, just weren’t interested in another medical drama—or have just seen so much “reality TV” that an actual scripted series is no longer appealing. Without the infighting, backstabbing, individual camera interviews/secret shots, and voting, it’s just not interactive enough.

I prefer to watch something that I know was created and accept the poetic license of the writers. The point of television/movies/theater et-al is to escape, lest we should forget.

–Lisa M. Boucher is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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