NEW AMSTERDAM (Photo by: NBCUniversal)

Try It Or Trash It Roundtable: New Amsterdam

Whenever a new series is announced, it’s always difficult to decide whether or not to fit it into our increasingly busy schedules. One of NBC’s latest dramas, New Amsterdam, wound up on some of our potential watch lists, so we decided to give it a shot. So, what’s this show all about? According to the network,

Inspired by the oldest public hospital in America, this unique medical drama follows the brilliant and charming Dr. Max Goodwin, the institution’s newest medical director, who sets out to tear up the bureaucracy and provide exceptional care.

So, should you try it or trash it? Check out what the Writes of the Roundtable, along with our special guest, Ana from TV Series Hub, had to say below the cut!

What made you give New Amsterdam a try?

Anam: Medical dramas are my weakness — there’s something about doctors and hospitals that is just irresistible. This one piqued my interest when the main character said, “let’s be doctors and break rules” in the promos. A doctor who couldn’t care less about the rules reminds me of my first love, House, so I wanted to see where New Amsterdam would go.

Melinda: I am a big fan of The Resident. I enjoyed the parts of that series that reveal the current issues in the medical field; and then, the previews for New Amsterdam came into my life. There are a lot of medical dramas out there, and I think this is a new, interesting twist. There are shows that like to touch on some of the issues out there, but what would happen if someone actually tried to fix them? It definitely intrigued me.

Sarah: I’ll admit I haven’t seen any medical dramas that drew my curiosity since House was on the air, but something about this show just piqued my interest. When you’ve got a doctor who’s stepping into a hospital to make the kind of chaos he feels it needs to help the patients, then I want to give it a chance.

Ana: Despite New Amsterdam being a medical drama, which is something I don’t usually go for, the trailer persuaded me to watch the pilot. I think the underlying societal issues, which are already present in the few minutes you see in the trailer, were the main reason I tuned into the first episode. Yes, the show happens in the hospital; but besides going deeper into the question of what is wrong with the health system, it also asks: “What’s wrong with us as people?” And when done well, human shading is always something I tune in to.

Shana: Two words, one name: Freema Agyeman. When I heard that NBC was airing a new medical procedural this fall, I had a lukewarm, “meh, maybe attitude about it. But as soon as I saw the Martha Jones (or Amanita Caplan, if Sense8 is more your thing…) in the New Amsterdam trailer, I made this new series a premiere week priority.

What were the pilot’s strong points?

Anam: Dr. Reynolds’ line about how not every patient needed to be cut open was a personal favorite. I also liked how Max’s humanity and personal backstory started to play out from the beginning. The norm for procedurals is usually to hold out and keep the B-storyline minimal — at best, but New Amsterdam gave Dr. Goodwin’s story its own platform. This guy has cancer — who knows how long he has to live — and he’s determined to turn administration over to help other people. It’s admirable, borderline stupid, but admirable.

Melinda: One of my favorite moments, like Anam, was when Dr. Floyd Reynolds said he didn’t perform as many procedures because he found alternative ways to help with medical conditions besides automatically cutting someone open. This struck me personally, as I have had to make a difficult surgery versus no surgery decision for a family member and had a similar conversation with a surgeon. I really found myself liking the characters right away. Dr. Max Goodwin is charismatic and a healthcare champion. We learn that he is battling cancer by the end of the pilot, which I thought was an interesting twist to his new outlook on hospital life. I enjoyed the psychiatric doctor, Dr. Frome as well. I feel like I will enjoy his storylines the most in future episodes.

Sarah: I loved that the pilot dove quickly into introducing these characters over the course of a few days. It wasn’t just about their roles at the hospital — it was about the characters and how their lives intersected with what was going on at New Amsterdam. Honing in on Max helped put down roots, because this is a guy who’s trying so hard; and unknown to everyone but one doctor (played by Sense8’s Freema Agyeman), is also battling cancer. I’m afraid for Max but also rooting for him to beat this, which is plenty enough reason to keep tuning in.

Ana: I think I went into New Amsterdam‘s premiere with this silent judgement of the choice of the lead character: another white male, ready to fire everyone and get his way. But I was completely wrong. From what you can see in the first episode, Max is a genuinely good person, making sacrifices — in both his personal and professional life — to serve the goal of helping people by fulfilling a vision he believes in. Complementary to already establishing this strong storyline for the main character, I also loved how the episode picked specific doctors that are following in his footsteps. I think my favorite thing in all of this was the use of  “How can I help?” through the whole episode — in so many different powerful ways. Catchphrases like that are always good (if they stick around).

Shana: As a surprise to no one, given my response to the first question, I loved pretty much everything about Dr. Helen Sharpe (Agyeman’s character!). I always love seeing successful women who don’t put up with anyone’s shit, and that was definitely the vibe I got from Dr. Sharpe.

Beyond that, I’m always a sucker for medical procedurals that make an effort to give viewers a glimpse of the human side of medicine. See also: Some of ER’s greatest hits.

Was there anything you didn’t like?

Anam: There wasn’t anything I particularly didn’t like in the New Amsterdam pilot. It wasn’t over the moon amazing, but there wasn’t anything to really dislike either.

Melinda: At the end of the episode, I sat staring at the TV and felt entirely way too overwhelmed by one episode of a new show. I definitely liked the characters; I felt connected and understood a lot of them, which doesn’t always happen by the end of a pilot. But there was way too much going on. I thought the weird relationship (or non-relationship) between Dr. Bloom and Dr. Reynolds was strange and uncomfortable. I get that we were supposed to see that they are in a “It’s Complicated” type thing right now, but the conversation in the hallway about their fling and why they couldn’t be together seemed forced in an already jam-packed episode. There was also a lot going on with Dr. Goodwin. The cancer surprise revealed Max’s motivation behind these hospital changes, but then there were the little sneak peeks about the wife. And then — bam! — there’s an issue with the baby…just way too much. I hope after this premiere, New Amsterdam can tone it down and focus a little.

Sarah: I can’t put my finger down on anything specific, but I am hoping the next few episodes to slow down a bit, in terms of weaving in and out of story like the pilot did.

Ana: Following up on what Melinda said, while I like pilots that give you a lot of content and pull on your heart strings (and this episode definitely did all that), I felt like the cancer reveal, when paired with everything else that already happened to the main character in this episode, was too much. I would have preferred if the writers had saved some of the reveals and plot twists from Max’s personal life for another episode.

Shana: I’m not entirely certain that I needed another White Male Savior™ series right now; but when I found out that New Amsterdam was based on an actual person’s life and was representing that person as he was, I cooled it on the annoyance. My other complaint probably has to do with pacing. I’m used to a ton of stories being crammed into a single episode from back in the ER days, so I’m not necessarily voicing the exact same complaint as Melinda; but I do believe that the information thrown at me during the New Amsterdam premiere wasn’t quite as seamlessly blended as it could have been. Some stories were given more attention than needed, while others deserved more and didn’t get it.

Final verdict: Try it or trash it?

Anam: I’m 50/50 on this. It’s too soon to tell if New Amsterdam is going to be a keeper, but it’s not a definite no. If medical procedurals are your cup of tea, then go ahead and give it a shot. There doesn’t seem to be anything overly special that hasn’t been done before. I’d say that New Amsterdam isn’t a show, like This Is Us, that you would go out and get all your friends and family to watch, but it’s one of those, if nothing else is on, let’s do this type of series.

Melinda: From what we’ve seen so far, New Amsterdam is worth a try. But, my dear binge-watchers and fall television lovers, I would not get too attached quite yet. There is a lot of potential here. The characters are likable and well developed. There are a lot of storylines at once, but if the series can really start focusing on certain well-developed angles, it has the potential to be a great show about what could be the future of healthcare.

Sarah: I really want to say try it; but these days, it’s difficult to judge the strength of a series on a pilot alone. I’m intrigued enough to keep watching, but it wasn’t an “instant hook” show either. If this type of show is something you like, go for it. If you’re not sure, I’d suggest waiting a few episodes and then binging to see what you think then.

Ana: I think if you like to sit down to watch a TV show that won’t necessarily be your 40 minute happiness fix every week, then I don’t see a reason why not to try it. As others have mentioned, New Amsterdam is not revolutionary TV, but coming back to what I mentioned in the first answer, there are issues the show is focusing on that should be explored and written about. In addition, the characters seem likable so far; and the pilot offers you a lot of insight into what is to follow in their lives that could help you decide for future episodes. Definitely give it a shot.

Shana: Try it. I don’t want to see New Amsterdam go the way of so many other new series, just because people are afraid to get invested. (I feel y’all on that, though!) I think a lot of these more ambitious dramas need time to really show what they can do, and it would be a shame if a show with potential went to waste.

New Amsterdam airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC.

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