September 26, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “New Amsterdam”



You can learn much of what you need to know about NBC’s medical procedural NEW AMSTERDAM from a bit of the David Schulner pilot script:

DOCTOR 1:  Look–if you can’t help [name of patient] as a doctor, then just help her as a human being.

DOCTOR 2:  Am I allowed to do that?

DOCTOR 1:  You are now.

New Amsterdam is no enemy of cliche.  It begins with its main character Dr. Max Goodwin, aka Doctor 1 above, (Ryan Eggold, late of The Blacklist) being roused by his alarm clock and going for a morning run in the streets before heading to his brand-new job as Medical Director of New York’s New Amsterdam hospital.  (The hospital and show are fictional, but inspired by a book about the city’s real-life Bellevue by its former Medical Director.)  Immediately the show indulges in the trope where Max is in a room in which nurses and maintenance workers are bitching in Spanish about the Medical Director they haven’t met yet, and have you guessed that Max is fluent in Spanish?  After some flirtatious banter with Dr. Hana Sharpe (Freema Agyeman), Max goes on to meet his doctors and deliver A Big Speech, which includes the lordly gesture of firing the entire cardio-thoracic department, because they care more about hours and fees than about their patients.

But one of those surgeons, Dr. Floyd Reynolds (Jocko Sims), is Max’s kind of rulebreaker, so Max hires him back.  Another rulebreaker:  Dr. Laura Bloom (Janet Montgomery), about to embark on a romance with Dr. Reynollds; she jumps without her full mask into an isolation room with a boy who may have Ebola in order to save his life.  Plus Dr. Iggy Frome (the suddenly middle-aged Tyler Labine), a psychiatrist who recruits a foster parent all on his own for a troubled girl in his care.  And Dr. Anil Kapoor (Anupam Kher), who refuses to make snap diagnoses; by questioning a patient and her husband in depth, he figures out what’s really wrong with her.  Rebels all.  Max, by the way, also has A Big Secret:  he has cancer.

Director Kate Dennis shoots the pilot with a pleasing grit that does what it can to obscure the hokum at the core of New Amsterdam.  But the visuals can only do so much, when every storyline has the same heroic tone.  New Amsterdam is so determined to be inspirational that even its sad stories go to a happy place:  when Dr. Kapoor realizes his expatriate patient is dying, Max has a word with that country’s ambassador, who happens to be in the hospital for minor reasons, and has the woman’s citizenship restored so she can die with her family.

This uninflected feel-good vibe isn’t helped by all the exposition required by a pilot, which leaves little time for the episodic plotlines.  They’re mostly reduced to a scene introducing the patient, a quick scene or two in the body of the show, and then it’s time for the doctor to have an Aha! moment that saves or at least improves the patient’s life.  The cast is also competent without seeming in the short term to be particularly inspired.  That description serves for New Amsterdam generally, in fact.  It’s an aspirin of a show, not likely to harm, but also not the medication to take for an entertainment miracle.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."