After the bleak winter of the writers strike, “New Amsterdam” may be the most promising new show to debut in some time. However, it runs the risk of not knowing what to do with its virtually limitless potential (see “Heroes”) and shows signs of jumping the shark before it even gets its feet wet.
Like “Heroes” (and more recently “Jumper”), “New Amsterdam” takes the premise of “someone that can do something superhumanly cool” and builds a show around it. The focal point here, however, is not flying, super strength or teleportation, it’s something infinitely more interesting: immortality.
John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Kingdom of Heaven”) is a homicide detective in modern day New York City, which is a far cry from his first job as a Dutch soldier pillaging America four hundred years ago. After saving a young Native American girl from being slain as he and his friends razed her village, she rewards him by granting him eternal life, with the caveat that he can only become mortal when he finds his true love. This explanation is a bit cheesy and ridiculous, but it might have been nice if there wasn’t reasoning for his immortality at all, or if the source of his eternal life had been a mystery for the show to explore. But a Native American priestess? Come on.
Four centuries later, Amsterdam is still looking. He says he’s taken the detective job because “death fascinates him.” You would think that with four hundred years of wisdom and sound financial investment, he’d be living on his own private island sipping Cristal for all eternity. But “New Amsterdam” takes a more ambitious route, and does so effectively: It shows the complexities that come from being immortal.
Living on an island might be relaxing, but it sure as hell would get boring after a few decades or so. That’s why, through a series of flashbacks, we find out about John’s past lives. Already we discover he’s been a famous artist and a lawyer, not to mention that he stormed the beaches at Normandy. Drawing from the nearly infinite well of four hundred years of world history, there’s bound to be a lot more flashbacks in store for “New Amsterdam.”
Though part of the show is spent exploring Amsterdam’s past, the other two thirds is a typical “CSI”/”Law & Order” type murder investigation, mining a genre that’s already far too common on television. Through these cases, the show occasionally shows some snippet of Amsterdam’s past, but when it’s just a typical whodunit, the show drags and forgets it has something new to bring to the table. Also in the crime scenes is the horribly stock character of John’s partner, Eva (Zuleikha Robinson, “Rome”) in the typical “I-don’t-tak-no-shit” role that seems to be a necessity for all crime shows.
The possibilities of “New Amsterdam” are virtually limitless. How many wives has John had over the years? How many children? How many dogs? Well, we know that he calls his latest dog “36.” The show feels like it’s in over its head sometimes and has to resort to typical crime drama nonsense to fill the gaps between what’s actually interesting. “New Amsterdam” is one to watch; hopefully it’ll realize what it’s capable of soon enough.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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