Move over Chicago Med. NBC has a second medical drama on its slate this fall.
New Amsterdam, starring The Blacklist’s Ryan Eggold, kicks off on Tuesday Sept. 25, with the season 3 premiere of NBC darling This is Us serving as a lead in.
Billed as a “unique medical drama,” confidence in New Amsterdam is clearly high. But should it be?
The series is inspired by Dr. Eric Manheimer’s memoir “Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital” and his 15 years serving there as medical director, which is something NBC wants you to know, but which doesn’t doesn’t really impact on the storyline one way or the other.
However, what does make the show stand out from its peers across various networks this fall is the novel idea of the understaffed and underfunded hospital at the center of the drama being the most important and interesting patient you’ll see on the show. Unsanitary, uncared for, abused, and top-heavy with consultants and bureaucrats only too happy to make a buck at everyone’s expense, New Amsterdam is crying out for a cure.
Enter Dr. Max Goodwin (Eggold), the hospitals’s fifth medical director in 5 years. However, there’s something different about this affable and approachable but singularly determined new broom. We quickly learn that both he and his twin sister Luna were born in New Amsterdam, but that Luna died 8 years later in the same hospital as a result of a virulent but entirely preventable hospital-acquired infection. Max has a calling, and he’s not going to allow anyone or anything to stand in his way. His efforts are made all the more poignant when we learn why always-in-motion-Max is in such a hurry to turn the hospital’s fortunes around, but as this is a spoiler-free review, you may have to watch to find out more on that score.
The premiere episode has a lot of boxes to tick — intriguing new doctors to introduce (in addition to the charismatic Eggold, a more than capable cast boasts Freema Agyeman, Janet Montgomery, Jocko Sims, Anupam Kher and Tyler Labine), relationships to establish, obscure medical conditions to solve, and even the threat of an ebola outbreak to keep us on the edge of our seats. And just like the Energizer Bunny that is Dr. Max, it does so with a sense of speedy and professional precision.
However it’s in this more familiar territory that New Amsterdam sinks to the level of just about every other medical drama on TV right now, with dutiful scenes of intrepid docs diagnosing previously missed conditions, tearful patients hugging it out, and self-doubting docs pep-talking each other in the hallways, all playing out pretty much as you might expect. Having watched Dr. Max dispense with a slew of consultants in a surprisingly satisfying mass-firing scene earlier, these regular moments seem to come almost as a let down by comparison.
Throughout the show’s opening hour, Dr. Max urges his staff to think and act differently, posing the question “How can I help?” if only to force them all to stop and think about what they are doing and how (if at all) it benefits the people under their care. This idea is mirrored in the premiere’s execution. Billed as something ‘unique’ in this fall’s TV slate, New Amsterdam shines brightest when it dares to bypass the standard medical drama tropes and offer its viewers something truly different.
Time and future episodes will reveal if the show has either the tenacity or imagination to keep that sense of uniqueness alive under its care.
New Amsterdam opens its doors on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 10 pm on NBC.
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