Spoiled kids go to 'Extremes'

September 01, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

Maybe "St. Elsewhere" wasn't as surprising as I remember it. Maybe "Northern Exposure" isn't as funny as I think it is. Maybe "I'll Fly Away" isn't as touching and important as it seems on Friday nights when I watch it.

But "Going to Extremes," the new one-hour drama from the Emmy-award-winning team of John Falsey and Joshua Brand, is one big letdown. It fizzles where the other shows sizzled. Where they soared, this sinks. The premiere airs at 10 tonight on WJZ (Channel 13). Don't rearrange your Tuesday nights for it this fall.

The premise has a group of bright, good-looking, intense American medical students in a "fictional island paradise," Jantique. Did I say they were all twentysomethings? It goes without saying. If this is a new fall show, what else would they be?

With grades not good enough to get into American medical schools, these M.D.- wannabes have enrolled in Croft University on the island. And, while they are portrayed as being just as good as students studying at, say, Johns Hopkins, they come off as something else. They come off in the pilot as spoiled, self-indulgent, self-centered and a little bitter about not getting in to a top-flight or any-kind-of-flight American school.

Maybe some viewers will find complaining about courses being canceled, long reading lists and no nouvelle white (that's wine) at the local store endearing from these kids who blame their plight on not "finding themselves" academically until their junior year. Personally, my heart is breaking.

Maybe spoiled, smart and rich is in again this year on TV. Or, maybe, Falsey and Brand have simply gone back to this particular well of doctors-in-strange- places once too often.

This series does have some almost-redeeming features. Filmed in Jamaica, it shows us island life as the Jamaican Tourist Board never intended. Many of the people live in shacks in this third world country at our doorstep. To their credit, Falsey and Brand have gone to some trouble to show those images in the usually upscale-and-shiny world of prime time and to construct a pilot that features the dignity and humanity as well as the poverty of these Jamaicans. But, in the end, it's not enough.

The only actor you're likely to recognize in the show tonight is Carl Lumbly from "Cagney and Lacey." As the dean of students at Croft, it's his job to listen to the complaining, whining and temper tantrums. He has the only line worth remembering in the pilot: "Grow up."

'GOING TO EXTREMES'

Channel: ABC, WJZ (Channel 13).

When: tonight at 10.

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