Shonda Rimes’s newest doctor drama on ABC has finally made it’s premiere (she’s responsible for Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice). In truth, it is not actually Rimes’s idea, though most people seem to credit it to her. It comes from Jenna Banns who has worked under Rimes and learned from her. Rimes is involved in the project but she is not the creator. Either way, we know there will be that typical Grey’s touch of crazy medical cases and relationship drama.
Entertainment Weekly didn’t love the show, feeling that it was a little too earnest and all over the place, but personally, I didn’t mind. In fact, I quite liked the show. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, wouldn’t qualify as my favorite show on television, but it’s definitely something I plan to keep watching.
The show follows a bunch of doctors working in South America with little supplies–the ER is the porch, much of their medicine comes from the natural herbs in the surrounding area, and the people speak Spanish. Like Grey’s, we have the vets and the newbies. The newbies consist of Lily, Mina, and Tommy, each coming to the jungle to deal with their personal baggage (both medical and personal). Lily lost her fiance and took a long break from medicine. Mina took too many shifts during her residency and a patient died when she was overtired and missed meningitis. Tommy (who you would recognize as Matt from Friday Night Lights) was a party boy who wants to remake his image (but isn’t really making that easy since his first question upon arrival is “can we go surfing”). The vets are Zee (Zitajalehrena Alvarez), Otis, Ben, and Ryan. Zee is the impatient, experienced one who doesn’t like the cocky Americans that come in without bothering to learn Spanish and only want to pad their resumes. Otis (you may recognize him as Bailey’s ex from Grey’s) has been a medical officer in the navy and has a history of addictive behavior (we don’t actually learn much about him in the first episode other than that he’s something of a flirt). Ben the genius who has a tough past (I believe he lost someone, but again, the vets were overshadowed by the newbies this episode). Ryan wasn’t in the episode long enough to know anything about her other than that she keeps trying to quit the clinic and coming back. We also have the pleasure of Charlie, a thirteen year old local boy who serves as a translator for the clinic.
For me, the strength of the show lies in the characters. There’s something extremely likeable about this cast. At this point it is too early to really decide who I like best, but there’s a good chemistry there. The storyline really focused on the young ones, so we really only got small glimpses of the vets, but their interactions (such as that opening scene where they debated diving in to help the people in the water) or whenever we see Zee and Otis together, are really endearing. And it’s important to see that because Zee would otherwise be a very unlikeable character, since all she does is complain about the newbies otherwise.
Tommy- I loved Tommy getting stuck making a house call and thinking this was a show of trust only to learn that it was actually a punishment. He’s so arrogant in so many ways that I want to hate him, but for some reason I can’t. Maybe it’s just Matt from FNL bleeding through. But you can tell that he does want to change, even if he doesn’t know how. Maybe the jungle will humble him some.
Mina- Mina’s storyline was particularly quiet. She’s stuck mostly handing out band aids in the clinic (rather than getting to go on a field call with the hot Dr. Ben). She’s obsessively looking for the more exotic sicknesses and rare diseases, only to have a patient nearly die because she had asthma. She figured it out in time, but it shook her because she’s already lost a patient due to the opposite end of carelessness. Learning this about her made her a deeper character than she appeared through most of the episode and I think it worked.
Lily- Lily goes with Ben to help a man who is badly injured while on a zip line. As the lighter of the two doctors, Lily has to go down the same line as the man to get him free with the fear that it might not support her weight. It does give her an opportunity to use her personal loss to get her patient calm as she cut through his skin to free him. She’s easily the most loveable of the new kids, the most ready to smile, and the most open.
What will set this show apart from Grey’s and Private Practice is that it is much more active. The doctors serve as EMTs, Emergency Doctors, Paramedics, and any other emergency personnel that might be needed on the island, making it more action packed and with more changing of scenery.