“How can I help you?”
By the end of the first two episodes of NBC’s new series, New Amsterdam, that phrase will be so grating, you’ll probably never want to hear it again.
New Amsterdam’s entry into the fall television season proves that the medical drama is the new police procedural — they are so many of them! For the newbie on the block, this Ryan Eggold-led drama is going to have a hard time differentiating itself from the pack.
The series is based on Dr. Eric Manheimer’s book, Dr. Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital, based on New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the United States.
Eggold stars as Dr. Max Goodwin, a charismatic new medical director who wants to change the world and rip apart the system, aiming to change the underfunded and understaffed hospital. NBC’s official description refers to the hospital as “the only one in the world capable of treating Ebola patients, prisoners from Rikers and the President of the United States under one roof.” The rest of the cast includes Freema Agyeman, Janet Montgomery, Jocko Sims, Anupam Kher and Tyler Labine. Eggold, who was great during his stint on NBC’s The Blacklist and lit up the screen in this summer’s BlacKkKlansman is very good here as well. But it’s his character that’s a bit of a problem, weighing down the show each time he’s on screen because he literally takes up so much space on the show.
The two black series regulars, Freema Agyeman and Jocko Sims, two of the most underrated and talented actors on television, make the most of what they are given. Agyeman plays a world-renowned physician that spends her days on Oprah and Ellen promoting the hospital, but she’s in for a rude awakening when the new medical director expects her at the hospital. However, instead of delving more into their characters, we don’t get much in the first two episodes, with the much of purpose of Agyeman’s character being to Eggold’s benefit and a good chunk of Sims’ storyline being cringy dialogue surrounding his character’s eventual interracial relationship pairing.
The primary issue with New Amsterdam, is that it has too many stories going on at once each episode. The method of storytelling seems to be in line with a format like Grey’s Anatomy, but for one, New Amsterdam is too new to kick things off like this. Secondly, the reason why this works for Grey’s is because while Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey is the centerpiece, it is an ensemble series. Eggold’s Max Goodwin could do the same on New Amsterdam, without having most of the story tie back to him.
As clunky as New Amsterdam is, it’ll probably be successful at pulling your heart strings, just like a fellow peacock network show which premiered Monday night. For one, major spoiler alert: Dr. Goodwin has cancer. Couple that with the stories of numerous patients who come in each week: an abused foster teen who needs a new home, a woman who was led to believe she has Parkinson’s disease but the treatment is actually killing her, a young man from Liberia who thinks he was tricked into transporting Ebola to the U.S., a young boy whose medications are making him a shell of his former self — and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Plan for your eyes to well up with tears during New Amsterdam, but also plan to be frustrated at the same time.
New Amsterdam premieres Tuesday, September 25 on NBC.