Apparently, “New Amsterdam” is going to solve America’s health care crisis.
NBC’s new medical drama starring Ryan Eggold (“The Blacklist”) has several ideas about how to fix one of America’s biggest political and social problems. Or, rather, the genius man with a heart of gold at the center of the series thinks he can solve the health care crisis, seemingly because he’s the first doctor to ever value people over money.
I’ve seen it with my own eyes! On TV! And you’ve seen it too, in NBC’s big marketing push, which presumes this poor man’s “Grey’s Anatomy” knockoff will be the breakout hit of the new fall season. I pray that it isn’t.
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“Amsterdam” (Tuesday, 10 EDT/PDT, ★ out of four) is achingly predictable, sickly sweet and emotionally manipulative. Based on Eric Manheimer’s 2012 memoir, “Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital,” the show is more wish fulfillment than narrative.
The setup is familiar. Max Goodwin (Eggold) is the lovable and tireless genius and new medical director at New Amsterdam, a hospital so storied that a poor Liberian boy has even heard of it.
Immediately, Max starts making changes, dismissing any doctor who puts “billing over care” and starting a housecleaning from the ground up (including, literally, meeting with the janitors). He encourages the doctors to help their patients as “humans”! He gets rid of the waiting room! He’s going to hire 50 new doctors! He convinces a celebrity doctor (Freema Agyeman) to stop doing morning TV shows and start caring!
Works of fan-fiction are often accused of creating a “Mary Sue” character, usually female, who sweeps into the story and is instantly liked by, smarter than and more skilled than everyone. I tend to shy away from the sexist term, but I’ve never seen a Mary Sue in plainer day than Max. Styled in NBC’s official synopsis as “brilliant and charming,” he’s presented as an unimpeachable vessel of goodness; his only flaw is that he cares too much about his patients.
Perhaps “Amsterdam” would have been just mediocre instead of terrible without its protagonist, but Max is a laughably unbelievable character from the start.
The staff surrounding him is stereotypical and boring: the gruff heart surgeon (Jocko Sims) and the impulsive ER doctor (Janet Montgomery), who are, of course, sleeping together. There’s a child psychiatrist (Tyler Labine) who’s as soft as a teddy bear, and a pompous neurologist (Anupam Kher). Agyeman, a standout on “Doctor Who” and “Sense8,” is wasted as a vapid celebrity doctor who learns to connect with her emotions again.
“Amsterdam” ticks off enough boxes in the medical-drama checklist to satisfy viewers who come just for the last-minute surgical rescues. It may be obnoxiously cheesy, but it can still drain your tear ducts. But the genre is seeing a renaissance, and there are other choices, such as ABC’s still-rocking “Grey’s” or the schmaltzy “Good Doctor.” The best medical dramas have something going for them besides the blood and scrubs. This one is simply dead on arrival.