|Ryan Eggold as Dr. Max Goodwin (Francisco Roman/NBC)|
NBC’s New Amsterdam is a medical drama inspired by the memoir of Dr. Eric Manheimer. Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital was written about Dr. Manheimer’s 15 years there. I’ve never read this book, but the doctor must be some kind of saint because NBC’s version of the man is nearly perfect or so it seems.
Ryan Eggold, best known for playing Tom Keen in The Blacklist and the spinoff The Blacklist: Redemption, plays Dr. Max Goodwin, New Amsterdam Hopspital's newest medical director who most certainly walks on water. First off, instead of dressing like a medical director, he dresses like an actual doctor which causes some of the staff to underestimate him. He utters the phrase, “How can I help?” to a large group of doctors, surgeons and nurses but gets no response from any of them. Since he’s the fifth or sixth director to take over the hospital in just as many years, it’s easy to see why everyone is jaded. Unhappy with the understaffed, underfunded and underappreciated hospital, Dr. Goodwin is on a mission to make changes. Immediately.
This isn’t a terrible concept for a new show, but it feels very much like the other recent medical shows that have come to the small screen: NBC’s Heartbeat, Fox’s The Resident, CBS’s Pure Genius, etc. In the pilot episode of New Amsterdam, Dr. Goodwin practically sneaks in the hospital after a morning run and changes into scrubs in the locker room where he overhears some of the janitorial staff and lower end nurses talking about the new director as just another boss who won’t listen to them. He proves them wrong by addressing their concerns right then and there. It’s a great way to start out the show.
Soon, we meet the other big players for show including Dr. Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman) who is too busy appearing as a guest on various TV show to do any real medical work, Dr. Viay Kapoor (Anupam Kher) who is talented doctor who is in no hurry to make changes, but instead would rather chat with his patients in order to make the right changes, Dr. Lauren Bloom (Janet Montgomery) a reckless doctor who doesn’t like rules, Dr. Floyd Reynolds (Jocko Sims) a gifted surgeon who actually performs less surgeries than his counterparts because he feels that sometimes there are better ways to help people than cutting them open. These are all good people, but they come off as cocky instead of self-assured. On the other end of the spectrum is the disheveled Dr. Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine), the head of the psychiatric ward who acts like Colombo. He’s odd, but probably the best character of the show.
In my opinion, medical drama shows work best when they operate like an ensemble like the teams they represent on the screen. When a show focuses too much on one character, the show feels fake for some reason. Shows like St. Elsewhere, E.R. and even Grey’s Anatomy (although way too “soapy”) have done a much better job at this.
New Amsterdam also fails with some of the side stories it wants to share. For instance, throughout the pilot episode, white female Dr. Bloom tells black male Dr. Reynolds that she’s been thinking of him recently and asks him if he would like to go out for a drink after work. When he refuses she says, “You know that when I say ‘go out for a drink’ I mean something else, right?” He does. The two have done this routine before. Not wanting to take no for an answer, she says the same line one or two more times and each time she is rebuffed. As it turns out (mild spoiler ahead) he refuses because she’s not black. He’d like to marry a black woman someday.
Now, what am I supposed to get out this scenario? Am I supposed to feel bad for the female doctor because she can’t get any sex? If the roles were reversed, the scene would come off as sexist. Am I supposed to be angry with the black man for being racist? Why are these scenes even in this show? The side story of the Ebola patient is much more exciting and intriguing than this trash. Apparently you can’t create a medical drama without doctors that sleep together. Nobody seems to know why, but you just can’t.
However, we also learn that Dr. Goodwin isn’t perfect after all. He will soon be a father but he’s been “too busy saving the world” to be there for his girlfriend? Wife? (It’s unclear what that relationship is.) He vows that he will change, but we know he won’t. Or he will and she’ll die doing childbirth or some other tragic thing will happen. Okay, I’m just speculating here, but that seems to be the tone of this show and unless it does really well in the ratings, I doubt we’ll find out anyway. Perhaps I’m just as jaded as the doctors who work there.
New Amsterdam airs Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. on NBC.