Posts Tagged ‘Off the Map’

I don’t ask much of Off The Map. I really don’t. It doesn’t even have to entertain me.  Sure, it’s nice if it supplements its beautiful people and scenery with bits of humor and wildly implausible medical stories. But if it doesn’t feel up to it, I’m perfectly content to just stare blankly at the pretty pictures flitting across my television screen. All I ask is that it not  make me want to throw things across the room.

In fairness to “There’s Nothing To Fix,” it isn’t nearly as bad as “On the Mean Streets of San Miguel.” There are no Nazis or former Nazis or giant, painful erections (which, for the record, are only truly bothersome as part of a narrative when mixed with Nazis or former Nazis). And there is plenty of stupid nonsense to semi-enjoy through half-open eyes. The episode opens, for example, with Minard (AKA Beautiful Blonde Doctor) and Tommy (AKA Handsome Doctor #2, AKA Matt Saracen) sleeping together in some bushes and being discovered by Zita (AKA Token Latina Doctor). Bernard and Tommy then spend the rest of the episode finding it hard to do doctor stuff because of the all the sex they had the night before. (This is completely understandable because it’s not like they’re highly trained professionals who attended years of medical school or anything.) Which leads to Tommy saying stuff like, “I’m sorry. I’m just finding it hard to save this guy’s life because I had sex with Minard in a bush last night,” and Ben (AKA Handsome Boss Doctor) responding, “LOOK. YOU’VE GOT TO GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME.”* And to Minard sitting around eating pizza with Ryan (AKA Dying Redhead Doctor) and saying stuff like, “I’m just so awkward around boys, you know? It’s so hard being beautiful and talented. I’m sorry you’re dying.”

(*This storyline eventually leads to Tommy siphoning virtually all of his blood into one of his patients, thus proving that he really does HAVE HIS HEAD IN THE GAME.)

But before I get ahead of myself too much, the non-sex half of the cold open involves a water taxi (AKA a boat) suddenly flipping over on a particularly rough stretch of river. Fortunately, several of our hero-doctors are walking by at that precise moment, as they are wont to do. In the aftermath of the crash, Lily (AKA Beautiful Brunette Doctor) spends most of the rest of the episode hanging off a log in a rushing river after attempting to save somebody who ends up dying anyway, Tommy and Ben patch up the rest of the survivors while shouting about GETTING THEIR HEADS IN THE GAME, and Minard and Ryan try to save the life of a cantankerous, diabetic pizza maker with a fungus on his ass. Nothing wrong with any of that. The episode even ends with one of those funerals for a terrible person no one likes (in the case, the cantankerous pizza maker) that everyone’s anxious to leave, but one person (in this case, Minard) won’t let anyone go until someone, anyone (but not them, for some reason) says something nice about the guy; so finally someone gives the dead guy a backhanded compliment and everyone runs away. After this, Minard and Tommy talk about how they totally did it, but it doesn’t have to be a big deal, you know? And Lily asks what the hell they’re talking about because she’s been hanging off a log all day and isn’t up on the latest gossip. So they tell her, and then she starts crying. Not because of  the sex, but because she’s a been hanging off a fucking log all day. Which just goes to show that in the face of tragedy, all of our silly personal drama doesn’t really matter all that much. Not that this will stop the show from spending a large amount of time on silly personal drama. Which is a good thing, because all of this is just fine. I mean, it’s not good, exactly. But it’s effectively silly storytelling. Minard and Tommy look good without clothes on. People hanging off of logs is exciting. Fungus-on-his-ass guy was a pip.

Unfortunately, running through all of this is a story about a wealthy, white couple adopting a South American child who turns out to have Leukemia. The would-be mother (we’ll call her Selfish Bitch, AKA Heartless Career Woman) is a lawyer who’s always been too focused on her career to have a baby. The would-be father (we’ll call him Sainty McSaint) is an aimless man-child. When they first discover the baby has Leukemia, they both decide they can handle it. But when they get further into the precess, Selfish Bitch freaks out and admits she never wanted a kid in the first place, let alone a terrible one with cancer coming out its ears. Sainty McSaint is sad, because he thought the baby would finally give purpose to his miserable existence. So he decides to adopt the baby anyway. When Selfish Bitch walks in on him making goo-goo eyes at the baby, he tells her the baby’s fever has gone done. Selfish Bitch says that’s nice, but it’s not their stupid problem anymore, so hurry up, because they’ve got a plane to catch. But Sainty McSaint tells her no, actually he can’t go, because he’s this baby’s father. To which Selfish Bitch responds, “You can’t be that baby’s father and my wife.” Sainty McSaint says that he knows, but she’ll be fine. Selfish Bitch is a little sad, but agrees that she will indeed be fine. She always is, after all, what with her being a terrible, heartless robot. And then she goes off to catch a plane with nary a goodbye.

Now, there are ways to make this story work. Mostly they involve not turning the would-be mother into a heartless villain who’s just too selfishly focused on her career to love anything. It is, after all, perfectly reasonable not to adopt a child with Leukemia. If you don’t feel capable of caring for said child, some might say not adopting it is even the responsible thing to do. And to the show’s credit, it does try to present both sides of the issue by letting Zita voice some of these concerns. It just fails miserably. By the time Selfish Bitch is leaving her saintly husband behind in the middle of the jungle with a dying baby without even saying goodbye, it’s pretty hard to take the episode’s attempts at evenhandedness seriously.

Impressively, after all this, the story somehow manages to get even worse. After Sainty McSaint’s evil wife leaves him to go back to her precious career (which is the only thing she’ll ever love), a bus pulls into the camp. I expected Selfish Bitch to get off the bus, her heart having grown three sizes that day (or at least wanting to say goodbye or whatever). But no. Instead, several couples with newly adopted South American babies start filing out of the bus. We have never seen any of these people before, but they all seem very nice, what with their offer to all stay in the jungle indefinitely and help Sainty McSaint raise his Leukemia baby. They’re doing all this just to let him know that he “is not alone.” Which, of course, is just one more dig at his terrible, awful, no-good wife.

So the moral of this story is that if you want to adopt a South American baby with Leukemia, but you’re afraid your selfish bitch of a wife might leave you for doing so, don’t worry about it. Because even if you’re stuck in the middle of goddamn nowhere, a busload of people will totally come along and help you raise it. And if you don’t want to adopt a South American baby with Leukemia, how do you even sleep at night, asshole?

Loose ends:

  • In case it wasn’t clear, I did not like this episode.
  • The adoption storyline also features some relationship drama between Token Black Doctor and Token Latina Doctor. Token Black Doctor wants babies. Token Latina Doctor doesn’t. OMG, right?
  • Really though, the non-adoption storylines were reasonably entertaining.

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Despite widespread and deserved critical disdain, I rather enjoyed the first couple of episodes of Off the Map. It’s clearly not a GOOD show, but it’s a show that’s extremely effortless to watch. Many have aptly described it as Grey’s Anatomy on an island, but it’s also sort of what Lost would have been like if every character were early-season Jack and the smoke monster was a whole bunch of sick people with odd ailments.

Even more so than on those other shows, the cast is composed entirely of beautiful people (there’s not even a token fat guy for comic relief). Like Lost, the background scenery is consistently breathtaking, which combined with the cast makes the show very easy on the eyes.

Most importantly, Off the Map seemed to know what it was. The first few episodes provided an oddly satisfying, if admittedly stupid, mix of melodrama and ridiculousness. Sure, some people scoffed when the second episode centered around a guy who was in the process of being squeezed to death by a giant, extremely fake-looking anaconda. But to me, that’s just good dumb fun.

Likewise, the pilot featured Michael McKean attempting to spread his dead wife’s ashes over a particular, glow-in-the-dark* lake. But then he hurt himself! By the end of the episode, he was patched up, but still in need of urgent medical care. So the beautiful doctors sent for a medevac helicopter. As the beautiful doctors wheeled their patient to the helicopter, he woke and started complaining about not getting to spread his wife’s ashes. The beautiful doctors responded to these complaints by … making the helicopter wait and rowing McKean to his special spot. Which is completely absurd and nakedly manipulative. But who really cares? The lake was pretty! Michael McKean cried! Happy endings all around!

(*Because of bugs. Or something.)

The danger in combining this sort of over the top melodrama with ridiculous, sensational situations lies in taking any of it seriously. For the most part, the first three episodes avoided that temptation. The fourth episode, on the other hand, um, didn’t.

For those of you who may have for whatever reason missed it, “On the Mean Streets of San Miguel” was mostly doing fine until until the beautiful blonde doctor uttered the always troublesome line, “He’s a Nazi.” And she didn’t mean a metaphorical Nazi, which would be problematic enough. As she pointed out later to her handsome male doctor coworker, “My patient is literally a Nazi.” OK then.

The Nazi in question was an old fellow who had fled to South America so as to avoid prosecution for war crimes. He regretted the misguided Naziness of his youth and had built for himself a respectable, even altruistic life as a beloved teacher to poor South American children. Golly, Off the Map, people sure are complicated, aren’t they? The remainder of the story centered on the beautiful blonde doctor’s decision to keep the dying former-Nazi alive so he could face some sort of vague authority instead of mercifully letting him die.

Now, is it possible for a show that had just featured a giant, extremely fake-looking anaconda to do a story like this? Well, probably not. But Off the Map did a wonderful job of compounding the problem by leavening the Nazi A-plot with subplots involving lightly comic relationship drama and a patient with a large, painful erection. Because nothing goes together better than Nazis and dick jokes.

As you can probably imagine, while the episode was going for something meaningful, it came off as somewhat tasteless.  In the case of Off the Map, it would probably be better off forgoing any attempts at meaningfulness altogether.

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