After getting hot in Alaska with “Northern Exposure,” warm reviews for Southern “I’ll Fly Away,” Brand/Falsey go Caribbean for “Going to Extremes.” But even ABC’s powerhouse Tuesday night will sweat to keep ratings for this tropical fish-out-of-water series from going south too.
Smart upscale drama penned by Frank South (with creator/exec producers Joshua Brand and John Falsey) about med students on the isle of Jantique–subbing for Jamaica–is loaded with quirky wit and affection for native eccentricity. Problems with this “Southern Exposure” (comparisons are inevitable) start with the cast and characters.
In short: too many Joel Fleischmans.
Students are here because they couldn’t get into a stateside school and nobody’s happy about it. They whine a lot. Conditions are idyllic but primitive: great beach, bad phones. Ubiquitous goats are a running gag.
Founder of the barely accredited Croft U. Medical School is Dr. Henry Croft, a maverick sawbones played by Roy Dotrice in a blustery perf reminiscent of George C. Scott in “Islands in the Stream.” The dean is a stern, brainy local Dr. Norris (Carl Lumbly). Pupils are all, but for one African-American, single white males and females.
Alex (Daniel Jenkins) and Kathleen (Joanna Going) meet on the puddle-jumper: he hits on her while she gets airsick as Jay Ferguson’s reggae theme music kicks in.
Brand and Falsey hate exposition, so viewers may find the pilot alienating.
Kathleen is the Babe, on the lam from a bad relationship.
Alex is a glib, Tom Hanksian wiseguy.
Others shacking up at the seaside dorm include New Age Aussie hunk Kim (Camilo Gallardo), neurotic Charlie (Andrew Lauer) and feisty Cheryl (Erika Alexander).
Brooding second-year Colin (Robert Duncan McNeill) is clearly on call for after-hours anatomy class with sexy Kathleen.
But the big stars are the local thesp talent and verdant Jamaican hills, lushly exploited by helmer Eric Laneuville.
Rasta dudes in dreadlocks and Jiffy Pop hats are sometimes so thickly accented viewers might want subtitles.
Life isn’t always a beach is the point of this offbeat Club Med. But notice how the pilot sneaks in a bare bum shot. And before end credits roll, everyone goes night swimming.