The medical system is broken, and at the titular public hospital, the new medical director is committed to fixing it.
Said director, Dr Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), has grand plans for the New York City hospital. After successfully running a clinic in Chinatown, he now has the bigger challenge of shaking up a medical facility that includes a public school, a prison ward and even offices of the United Nations.
New Amsterdam is so famous that it is the only American hospital a poor sick boy from Liberia has heard about and he came all the way from his country to seek treatment there.
Max’s mission is to shake up a hospital that “places billing over patient care”.
He has the guts and gumption to do it, but his way is to ask nicely, “How can I help?” and without being a dictator – even when he is firing all the cardiac surgeons his first day on the job.
A hospital without heart doctors? Huh. Oh yes, this guy is taking care of business.
(He later rehires Dr Floyd Reynolds, played by Jocko Sims, because he’s apparently less money-minded than his colleagues.)
New Amsterdam has the requisite disease-of-the-week, but if you’re looking for a medical procedural with puzzling cases and offbeat ways to treat them, you won’t find it here.
The point of this TV series seems to be how the characters learn about themselves from being the good doctors that they are.
Take oncologist Dr Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman). When we first meet her, she’s a cocky celebrity doctor who spends most of her time appearing on talk shows to promote the hospital.
But by the end of the first episode, after Max gives her The Speech, she realises that her real work lies not in being the pretty face-of-the-hospital PR machine but in practising medicine like a dedicated doctor should.
The character becomes a little insipid after that, though, and I can’t help but wonder if Helen would have been more useful staying where she was as a foil for Max and his determination.
Janet Montgomery, Tyler Labine and Anupam Kher – who has appeared in more Bollywood movies than all the acting gigs the others have done combined – round out the main cast.
In New Amsterdam, you quickly get to know a lot about the flawed characters’ lives by the second episode, including why Max is charging ahead to fix things.
This show isn’t brilliant nor particularly outstanding in any way, but it is interesting enough if you have an hour to kill. (On network TV in the US, it has a ready-made audience as it comes on after the very popular This Is Us.)
I just wish the writers had done a better job with the script. Some of the lines that come out of the characters’ mouths are beyond corny. Look at these ones:
“If you can’t help Gemma as a doctor, then help her as a human being.”
“Let’s get into some trouble, let’s be doctors.”
“The only way to beat death is life.”
And all of it delivered with a straight face.