Station 19, which premieres tonight on ABC, is the latest Shonda Rhimes production. Rhimes is the uber-successful executive who has produced the network’s Thursday night hits Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. Each of those shows celebrates their unique characters and their strong protagonists.
It’s unfortunate then that Station 19 — a Grey’s Anatomy spinoff — feels so forgettable.
The first episode, which was available for review, introduces us to the team at one of Seattle’s many fire stations. Station 19 is managed by the serious-minded Pruitt Herrera (Miguel Sandoval). Herrera believes in unit discipline and taunts his officers by preventing them from sliding down the fire house pole.
The chief suffers a medical ailment in the first episode, setting up an interesting rivalry between Herrera’s daughter Andy (Jaina Lee Ortiz) and Lieutenant Jack Gibson (Grey Damon). This being a Rhimes production, the duo are romantically involved at work and at home.
Andy is undeniably the show’s main character and comes to the forefront after her father is hospitalized. But Andy doesn’t have the unique appeal of some of Rhimes’ other protagonists. In fact, she seems like a step backwards.
Even before the revelations about her father’s condition, Andy is upset about Gibson potentially proposing to her. Soon enough, she’s reconnecting with an old flame named Ryan (Alberto Frezza), setting up a potential love triangle. The triangle lacks the heat and passion that might make it interesting (maybe that depth would be revealed in later episodes) and its clumsy introduction doesn’t serve the story well.
The program’s workplace doesn’t even come alive in the way that the Grey’s Anatomy hospital did in its early seasons or Annalise’s law firm did at the beginning of How to Get Away with Murder. Ryan Murphy’s Fox drama 9-1-1 (which similarly features the comings and goings of a fire department) offers a much more exciting and unique look at the daily workings of a fire house.
In Station 19, the fire station and the work of the fire department often takes a back seat to the romantic entanglements and Andy’s relationship with her father. For a show centered around a fire station, the work of the firefighters is ironically often left on the back burner.
As a Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, the pilot does contain an obvious connection to that ABC hit. Dr. Ben Warren (Jason George) has transferred over from the Grey Seattle hospital to this fire station. He’s considered the station’s new guy and is derided as such. This series’ pilot does include a nice little scene with him and Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), who reminds him of how to show off his talents. “The only way to prove that you’re any good is to be good,” she says. One only wishes that the show would’ve followed that philosophy.
This show’s premiere episode never offers much for viewers to hold onto. It feels very safe, a marked departure from some of Rhimes’ other shows, which could grip viewers very quickly. Rhimes will soon be moving on to Netflix, where she might have more freedom to explore interesting characters and set-ups. For now, Station 19 lacks the unique footprint that could make it stand out.
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Review by: John Hanlon