One episode in, and there is no question that New Amsterdam is NBC’s perfect show to follow up This Is Us. From start to finish, you get the sense that this is a series designed to make you feel things, from joy to sadness to hope that there can be a society where doctors and nurses can think with patients first and never about the money.
Yet, it is also a hospital drama, and at this point we have seen a LOT of hospital dramas. Some of the tropes are here, from the doctor who takes care of everyone but himself to the rule-breaker to the person who gets incredibly involved with some of the patients. It does at least feel very different from NBC’s other medical drama in Chicago Med and we are happy for that.
The star of the show is The Blacklist alum Ryan Eggold, who is playing Dr. Max Goodwin. He is brought in to run the fictional New Amsterdam, the oldest hospital in New York City (inspired by a hospital known as Bellevue). It’s a public hospital, one where patients do not need insurance in order to be treated. Within this hospital it has facilities for the UN and even a school.
So what’s Max Goodwin’s job? He is the new medical director at the hospital, and one intent to turn around the hospital no matter the cost — whether it means firing the majority of a particular department or finding a way to make sure a number of different departments are taken care of. The question that he is often eager to ask is a simple one: “How can I help?”. That’s his mantra in the premiere as he gets to know some of the other doctors and help them through some of their problems.
The other doctors are a colorful-but-interesting group. You have emergency head Dr. Laura Bloom (Janet Montgomery, Salem), who is unafraid of getting her hands dirty and fine to take big risks. She has feelings for Dr. Floyd Pearson (The Last Ship actor Jocko Sims), who is hesitant to dive into a relationship with her because she is not black. Floyd is the only member of the cardiac surgical department still working at the hospital after Max fired everyone else. Anupam Kher (Sense8) is playing Dr. Anil Kapoor, who is intent on taking his time in order to help his patients. He clashed with Max over ideology but, in the end, proved his methods to be right.
To go along with these three, there are two more to consider — psych head Dr. Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine, Reaper) and Dr. Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman, also Sense8), a doctor who spends most of her time on television or giving speeches. She’s a character we haven’t seen as much of on other medical shows, as she spends most of the premiere fighting Max on how much she actually wants to spend time at the hospital. Eventually, he wins out here.
The characters are clearly-defined and compelling from the start, which does give us a sense that there’s room to grow with all of them. We do think that some of their plots are a tad predictable, with most reaching a hopeful resolution by the end just because that seems to be this show and we do think that this show is saving its own unpredictable twist for later: Max has cancer, though he isn’t exactly spreading that around to other people who need to know. He’s also going 1000 miles an hour trying to take care of everything, which probably isn’t helping his treatment plan at all.
New Amsterdam does suffer in that the majority of the episode’s primary plot points all were featured in its trailer — with that, it does have a very by-the-numbers feel. Yet, that does feel a bit like the fault of NBC and not the show. There are hints about the cancer throughout Max’s story if you know to watch for them, and it was interesting to watch with that in mind.
Eggold is magnetic and compelling, precisely what we expected after seeing him as a lead on The Blacklist: Redemption. We do also like the majority of the cast, after seeing them on other things. While hardly revolutionary, New Amsterdam delivers an entertaining pilot with interesting-enough people that you want to keep watching. If you like medical shows, it’s worth sticking around for. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’re not watching it in the first place.
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