'Grey's Anatomy' spinoff 'Station 19': Where's the fire?

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Jaina Lee Ortiz as firefighter Andy Herrera in Station 19. (Photo: Mitch Haaseth/ABC)

At least Station 19 lets you know how low it’s setting the bar for itself right from the start. In the opening moments of this Grey’s Anatomy spinoff premiering Thursday, the camera pans over a firehouse and stops at a shiny fire pole. A female voice-over asks us, “Ever try going down a fire pole? It’s not easy. … That’s why I decided a long time ago just to use the damn stairs.” Really, Station 19? The most dramatic way you could think to begin your existence is by whining about how hard it is to slide down a pole?

The voice, it turns out, belongs to Andrea “Andy” Herrera, a Seattle firefighter played by Jaina Lee Ortiz. She’s the central character in Station 19. Andy is a tough, experienced firefighter whenever she’s not a tender, vulnerable daughter to her firefighter-captain dad (Miguel Sandoval), and whenever she’s not a passionate romantic partner to at least two guys. In other words, Andy is supposed to contain so many aspects of ideal womanhood, she ultimately doesn’t embody any of them: She’s a cipher with pole-phobia.

Station 19 spins off Grey’s Anatomy by having Grey’s surgeon Ben Warren (Jason George) hang up his scrubs and pick up a fireman’s helmet. In this show, most of the characters just call him “New Guy” — they’re hazing him, and he whines a lot too: “I’m a surgery nerd and you guys are fire nerds. I don’t speak fire nerd yet.” That cringy dialogue was penned by writer Stacy McKee, creator of Station 19 under the auspices of megaproducer Shonda Rhimes. (This show looks like it will be Rhimes’s final gift to ABC as she exits for her lucrative new deal at Netflix.) The premiere features cameos by Grey’s stars Ellen Pompeo and Chandra Wilson, both of whom look as though someone is holding a pistol at their heads just off-camera.

So, yes, there are big, blazing fires to fight in Station 19. Yes, there are firehouse meals to be consumed — although, this being a Shonda Rhimes show, vegetarian meatloaf is served as a healthy option. Yes, there are firehouse hookups — Andy is making it with Jack (Grey Damon), whom Andy describes as “impulsive and rash,” two words that have never emerged from the mouth of a real human in normal conversation ever.

And I’ll be damned if the fire pole that commences Station 19 doesn’t end up the central image of the show’s first hour: It comes back at the end of the episode to be used as a metaphor for the Challenges of Life, so that Andy can muse in voice-over, “You gotta grab on, take the next step, trust yourself, and let go.” Say no more, Andy: I’m letting go of Station 19 right now.

Station 19 airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: