Dr. Ben Warren, the Grey’s Anatomy surgeon who’s never been quite sure what life or career he wants, has made his decision, and Station 19 is the answer. So the Grey’s spinoff fixes Ben’s problem — now, on to its own.
Shonda Rhimes’ latest production — at ABC even with Netflix in her future — certainly has the Shondaland feel, that easy blend of life-or-death workplace thrills and soap opera chills, strong women taking control of their professional and personal lives even as they harbor doubts and nurse vulnerabilities. (Station 19 is produced by ABC Studios, with Stacy McKee as showrunner and executive producer, along with Rhimes and Betsy Beers.)
While the new series that premieres Thursday ostensibly follows Dr. Warren (Jason George) as he doffs his Grey Sloan surgical scrubs for firefighting gear at the nearby Station 19, the show’s focus is clearly on Jaina Lee Ortiz’s Andy Herrera, the firefighter daughter of the station’s Captain Pruitt Herrera (Miguel Sandoval).
Early in the debut episode (no spoiler alert necessary here) the Captain suffers a health setback that demands a new leader for the station. Two likely candidates: Andy and her co-worker (and sometime boyfriend) Jack Gibson (Grey Damon).
The debut episode, directed by exec producer Paris Barclay and titled, for more reasons that one, “Stuck,” does an efficient job of setting up the central dilemma — not so much who will take over the firehouse as can they do it together — and establishing the station-load of characters. In addition to take-control Andy and finding-himself Ben, there’s lovestruck Jack (how lovestruck? Andy discovers an engagement ring in his pocket when she’s feeling for something else); Andy’s best firefighting pal Maya Bishop (Danielle Savre); Travis Montgomery (Jay Hayden), who quickly puts the know-it-all rookie Ben in his place; and good-natured Dean Miller (Okieriete Onaodowan) and Victoria Hughes (Barrett Doss).
Outside the firehouse — but not too far outside — is Officer Ryan Tanner (Alberto Frezza), the local cop (and Andy’s neighbor, childhood friend and high school sweetheart). Firefighter Jack definitely has a rival for Andy’s heart — not to mention in the show’s looks competition. This being a Shondaland series, Seattle’s public servants seem just as ready for catwalk duty.
Looks aside, though, Station 19 will need a stronger, more distinctive personality to rival the grittier, similarly themed Chicago Fire, or even its own, much elder sibling Grey’s Anatomy. Good will and crossover potential, well-mined in the series’ premiere, can provide just so much heat.
Station 19 debuts with a two-episode premiere Thursday, March 22, at 9 PM on ABC.