TV Review: New Amsterdam

This is an odd one.New Amsterdam the show is about a hospital of the same name. It’s a rebranded Bellevue, the state run hospital in New York, made famous mostly by locking in felonious nutcases.

In the case of this series, it is based on Dr. Eric Manheimer’s memoir Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital. Since he’s been the Medical Director of Bellevue Hospital for over 13 years, I can only wonder how much of what is on screen is what happened in real life, what Manheimer WANTED to happen in real life, and how much is just television.

The premise, so far, is, from IMDB,

Dr. Max Goodwin is brilliant, charming — and the new medical director at America’s oldest public hospital. While he’s set on tearing down the bureaucracy to provide exceptional care, the doctors and staff are not so sure. They’ve heard this before, and no one else has delivered on those promises. Not taking no for an answer, Max disrupts the status quo and proves he will stop at nothing to breathe new life into this understaffed, underfunded and underappreciated hospital — the only one in the world capable of treating Ebola patients, prisoners from Rikers Island and the president of the United States all under one roof — and return it to the glory that put it on the map. Inspired by Bellevue in New York City.

Step one is to remove all of the buzzwords from that BS write up. What’s actually happening is “hospital brings in new guy, new guy takes a sword to the Gordian knot of red tape.”
To be honest, this show is a lot better than the marketing and ads make it out to be. I figured it would be all about evils of medicare, “the gubment,” et al. Nope. It’s actually all about fighting the bureaucracy of what happens when you get the government involved in medical care. I don’t know if the writers realize this, but that’s what every episode seems to be about.
Hell, half of the episodes thus far focus on personal attention to detail by doctors to patients.  You know, treating a patient like a person. Which is more than Doctor House ever did. They have managed to largely avoid the effect of making it Wagon Train to the ER, which seemed to be what most medical shows are centered around. This isn’t a heavy focus on patients from our point of view, but it balances doctors with personal lives and problems, patients with medical issues, and doctors interacting with their patients as though both the doctors and the patients are people. Right now, this show has done a more realistic job of making Doctors humans with foibles, as opposed to House, where the point seemed to be all about making foibles with medical degrees instead of human beings. (Seriously, did every character deliberately slip into degeneracy, or was it just my imagination?)
Mercifully, this show also avoids turning into a medical soap opera.
This is a cute trick, considering that “the new guy” has cancer in episode one, with a pregnant wife, and they’re going through a seperation….
And again, still not a soap opera.
Right now, the show is leaning fairly heavily on three characters
  • “Max Goodwin,” aka new guy, played by Blacklist favorite Ryan Eggold (so popular, they gave him his own series for when Blacklist was off the air, a bribe, I suspect, to keep him on the show a little longer).  Eggold is a talented and solid actor, and I would like him to have even more of a career than he has already. He carries off the role of “eager new guy” in a way that isn’t obnoxious or cliche. It’s strangely refreshing. Heck, the character of Goodwin is so well written, even in the first episode they hit him with a moment where, nope, Goodwin isn’t perfect either, and the character bounces right back with “I’m wrong, so what can I do for you and the patient?”
  • “Dr. Helen Sharpe”  is played by Freema Agyeman, of Doctor Who fame. Yes, she’s playing yet another doctor. The fun thing with this character is that Sharpe is the chief oncologist who has spent the better part of the last few years trying to be Doctor Phil. Basically, she’s a media doctor who has spent so long away from actual patients, she has to be retrained to interact with real people.
  • Kapoor / Fromme — These are two doctors, but they’ve been so intertwined, they’re fairly inseparable. Thus far, they each have a fairly solid subplot in neuro / psychology. The most interesting thing here is that every issue brought up are real issues, and solved in a realistic manner. I know this because I know a lot of people with problems both neural and psychological. Issues span from over-prescription of psychoactive medications to simple and straightforward “Yeah, foster care is messed up.”
Overall, it’s entertaining. Though not exactly groundbreaking. It’s a much better version of previously executed concepts.
Let’s call it a 7/10.
Though for entertainment value, I will tell you right now that the sequel to Hell Spawn, Death Cult, actually takes place in Bellevue. So order a copy of Hell Spawn and be up and ready to read Death Cult when it comes out.



About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, nominated for Best Horror in the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, an attempt to take Dan Brown to the woodshed in his own medium -- soon to be republished by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and it's follow-up, "Codename: Winterborn." And "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set To Kill" are murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to TV Review: New Amsterdam

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard says:

    Is Hell Spawn going to be available in e-format?


Speak now, or forever hold your comment.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s