Saturday, September 29, 2018

Pilot Review: New Amsterdam

New Amsterdam (NBC)
Premiered September 25 at 10pm

This is another show, like “Manifest,” that I saw advertised over and over whenever I turned on the TV to browse through OnDemand in the past few weeks. I had read some negative reviews that accused it of portraying yet another white savior story, where Ryan Eggold’s eccentric Dr. Goodwin swoops in to help everyone else better themselves so that he can himself feel like a better person. While that may be true, or at least one way of looking at this show, there are plenty of other problems that are far more prevalent. The scene in which he fires the entire cardiac surgery department was featured heavily in all of the promos, and his reference to everyone calling their lawyers suggests that there are far-reaching implications to his impulsive, uncleared decisions that he or the show don’t bother to consider as he barrels forward, trying to bring medicine back to the people again. He’s also incredibly able to be present and have a hand in everything that’s going on at the hospital, showing up at just the right time to impossibly supervise every single function in the hospital. ISIS sending someone unknowingly affected with Ebola was quite dramatic, and it’s exactly the type of sensational plotline commonly featured in pilots whose later episodes won’t go quite as far with their medical cases. Eggold had a dopier role on “The Blacklist” and anchored the very brief spinoff “The Blacklist: Redemption,” and also appeared as a relatively friendly white supremacist in “BlacKKKlansman” earlier this year. Here, he’s beyond charismatic, but it’s a bit much to believe that he could actually be a real, functioning person. I’m a big fan of British actress Janet Montgomery, who I first encountered on “Human Target” years ago, and I’m happy that she’s doing something like this instead of the reviled “Made in Jersey.” I was pleased to see Freema Agyeman, who I immediately recognized from her role as Amanita on “Sense8,” as Dr. Sharpe, who seems like she’ll be Dr. Goodwin’s number one enforcer of his new medicine policies. I usually like Tyler Labine, but I think he’s better in comic relief or full-on comedy roles like the ones he had in “Reaper,” “Sons of Tucson,” and “Invasion,” than asking to be taken seriously as a psychologist. This show is pretty much what I expected, but it aims too high and doesn’t really care if it can’t reach, satisfied in providing high-stakes drama in a world full of seemingly simple overarching promises.

How will it work as a series? As if an entire department being fired and a doctor nearly contracting Ebola weren’t enough, it turns out that Dr. Goodwin also has cancer, which means that he truly has nothing to lose as he tries to effect whatever change he can with the time he has left. That suggests he’ll adhere even less to any objections to his new medical policies, aiming even higher.
How long will it last? The reviews aren’t too kind, but the numbers were pretty big, giving NBC a solid win. Medical shows have the ability to attract a large audience even if they’re over-the-top, and this one, however much of a stretch it may be, is a surer thing than NBC’S other event-based hit, “Manifest.” I’ll predict a renewal based on this start.

Pilot grade: C-

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