Honestly, the audacity of calling this “New” anything. I understand the historical background of New Amsterdam as a place and no doubt there’s some official tv explanation that works very hard to link that history with the title of this “new” (there’s that word again) US medical drama and the titular New York public hospital it’s set in. But, since almost every frame, idea or even musical cue has been directly lifted from a long line of previous, better programmes, either the show’s makers/ namers are completely lacking in self-awareness or they’re just having a laugh.
The Blacklist’s Ryan Eggold plays our hero, the maverick – of course – new (argh) medical director
Tom Keen Max Goodwin brought in to turn the hospital around. The script wants us to think he’s revolutionary; the irony of it is that the show is anything but: from the “Feeling Good” musical montage at the beginning to the plaintive hipster cover of “Fix You” musical montage at the end, there‘s barely a moment of this you couldn’t script yourself with nothing except the first couple of seconds of each scene to go on. I don’t want to re-cap the entire episode, but the ill-looking fellow coming out of the airport and heading to the hospital? Yup. Exactly what you’re thinking will happen to him does in fact happen to him. The scene where Max wanders into the locker room and his new underlings are trash-talking him in Spanish without knowing it’s him? Yup. Exactly what you’re thinking will happen then does in fact happen then. The pointed warning to the gorgeous dedicated doctor and everyone else on the team that nobody – NOBODY – is to go near the ill-looking fellow without their full Hazmat suit on? Yup. Exactly what you’re thinking will happen without the full Hazmat suit on does in fact happen without the full Hazmat suit on. And exactly why. And, as for our hero himself, well, like all genius mavericks who can “fix” broken hospitals, patients and colleagues, it comes at the cost of being unable to “fix” his own life or his own health: he already has TWO of your standard genius maverick Secret Pains so far, and it’s only the pilot.
Poor Eggold, a reliable, charismatic performer, does his very best to make it all work, but even he’s not immune from the wall-to-wall “borrowing” that characterises the entire show: Jed mentioned the majestic ER when he PSA’d this last week, and somebody involved with New Amsterdam is a big fan too because you know that Dr Doug Ross look? That head tilted, look at you through soulful, slightly squinting eyes, mouth set, want-Weaver-or-Green-to-do-something-they-won’t or forgive-him-for-something-he-shouldn’t… that George Clooney look? It’s not just New Amsterdam’s ideas and characters that have been done before but, consciously or otherwise, Max Goodwin even recycles that look too.
Of course, as we’ve said countless times, just because something’s been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining, and a lot of people clearly find New Amsterdam entertaining. A second season has been commissioned and already started in the US, which I can readily understand. All the softly-soundtracked crying, helping and well-meaning mavericking makes it a very easy watch and it certainly does everything it sets out to do – I mean, in spite of myself, tears did in fact stream down my face during “Fix You”, exactly like they were supposed to. It’s just that everything is done in the most obvious, hackneyed and cheaply manipulative way possible. Apart from the casting which is actually reasonably interesting and diverse, even if the characters’s personalities are as paint-by-numbers as everything else about it.