New Amsterdam: Old Theme, Old Twists

John Amsterdam has a problem.

He's immortal, and like all immortals, he wants to have a finite life span while the rest of us mortals would all like to live forever. Did I mention the immortal is immortal?

As New Amsterdam, the new series on Fox TV starts, we are rushed through a number of explanations of the character's background: He's been sober since the mid 1960's, he gets a new partner, he's had a lot of cop partners, he's had a lot of girlfriends, (In case we don't get the immortality thing) etc., etc.

Early in the episode, while we watch John (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) chase down a "perp", he drops to the ground from what looks like a heart attack and we get treated to one of the many flashbacks shown throughout the show. These let us see different aspects of when the shaman put the immortal whammy on him to repay him as a gift for protecting her from an attack back in the Dutch colonists days.

His buddy, a jazz club owner named Omar (played by Stephen Henderson) knows he's immortal and they conjecture since he was pronounced dead at the hospital, that his pseudo heart attack came about because his perfect soul mate was in his proximity. So though he's been looking for this true love for hundreds of years, he thinks he's encountered her within the first 15 minutes of the series.

The show has a low key kind of energy much like the main character's subtle presence as a New York Homicide Detective.

Did I mention we're constantly treated to flashbacks with his shaman benefactor casting her immortality spell on him?? Sorry. I thought I'd give you a feel of what it was like to watch the show.

John Amsterdam's angst (you know he has issues because they are going to pack this into the first episode for us) is that everyone he meets will die and pass on, leaving him behind (sound familiar?). "To be human is to die. Dying is what makes life worth living." (As we get pummeled with more cliches, my cliche shields are weakening.) But his immortality can end if he finds hims true love, after which he will become whole and ready for mortality. (And that brings on a heart attack!!??)

During a murder investigation John is conducting, he comes across a very old woman named Julia who he knew from the past... how quickly we jump into each facet of his past life. Fortunately, she has degraded mentally, so when she shows her angst about how he left her, her condition explains this away to her family. As she says early on in their conversation, "Do I know you?" John says, "Not any more." (Keptin', she caunnot take aneemoh!!)

As John and his partner resolve their case, and being the top cop of the precinct, he apprehends the suspect quietly before his partner arrives, she asks, "I thought you were going to wait for me?". Looking non-chalant, he replies, "Yea, I lied" .. Oh Mr. cavalier, I shudder at the o-riginality.

The show is brought to us from executive producers David Manson (Saved, Thief, Nothing Sacred), Allan Loeb (Things Lost in the Fire, 21), Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, The Hoax), Leslie Holleran (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, The Hoax) and Steven Pearl (Untraceable).

I hold no fantasies that this show is going to last and I'm not sure why we have a vampire/Highlander type show being tossed at us with such a cliche type outline. The fans get way too many details shoved down their throats in this first episode, giving me the sense that the Fox network does not trust the fans to get the nuances of the character. Fox needs to trust the fans to get the different aspects of the characters put out to us over a few episodes - people aren't that stupid. They can follow a developing character line.

Then again, are they just worried it won't last that long?

One last comment in this "rant": If New Amsterdam starts to sound more like a Highlander ripoff, that's one thing. It's their death knoll. But if I hear one single Queen soundtrack in the background, I'm going to personally go down to Fox and give them a piece of my mind.. once I stop screaming from the cliche pummeling. Did I mention he's immortal?

Never mind.

Official Site: New Amsterdam

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