There is no question that Shonda Rhimes near single-handedly changed the game at ABC, casting strong, powerful women like Kerry Washington, Ellen Pompeo and Viola Davis in lead roles while reflecting diversity across all of her projects.

And while Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder are all winning formulas, new firefighter drama Station 19 falls short. Quick side-by-side comparisons will be made to NBC’s Chicago Fire, similar running-into-burning-buildings fare, however, executed with a lot more heart.

Station 19 is a spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy, set just a few blocks away from Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital in Seattle. Making a major crossover from Grey’s is Jason George’s Dr. Ben Warren. And herein lies the first problem with 19. What would make a surgical resident leave a plum position to start at the bottom rung as a firefighter, seemingly overnight? It is an obvious question left out there without much on an answer in the opener.

STATTION 19 Mitch Haaseth ABC

However, taking center stage is not George, but Jaina Lee Ortiz as Andy Herrera, a vital member of the firehouse with big ambitions. Things get complicated when Andy has to take over the leadership role at the station after her father’s (Miguel Sandoval) health deteriorates. Andy must share the position with fellow firefighter Jack (Grey Damon) whom she has been seeing and who apparently sees marriage at the end of the line for the two. Not so much for Andy, who is freaked out by the prospect and has a one-night romp with childhood friend and cop, Ryan (Alberto Frezza).

The set pieces, with the team running into danger – aiding and saving community residents, in one case, helping a 13-year-old girl deliver a baby, and combating a deadly gas leak – are well done. And Ortiz, who centers the show as Andy conveys both strength and the uncertainty of her place in the grand scheme of things. Engaging, there is room for her to blossom, however, it is hard to get invested in the co-workers around her whose characters feel more paint-by-numbers than fully rounded. Sure, they tick all the boxes as far as what Shondaland shows deliver – young, sexy and driven professionals navigating their way through life one success and one failure at a time. But there is something missing – a spark, and an energy that is sorely needed to bring us along for the ride. And while cameos from Ellen Pompeo and Chandra Wilson are nice, they aren’t nearly enough to keep Station 19 afloat.



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