TV Review: New Amsterdam – Pilot Episode
New York Homicide Detective John Amsterdam can’t die. You see, he’s immortal, given the ability to live forever by a tribe of Native American women in 1642 for an act of kindness. Now, Amsterdam works the murder cases of present-day New York City while waiting for his true love to enter his life, for only the woman who would become his soulmate can make Amsterdam mortal again. Such is the premise of the new FOX show New Amsterdam.
Dutch newcomer Nikolaj Coster-Waldau stars as John Amsterdam, the cop with a death wish, mainly because centuries of living has taught him not to be afraid of death, although he does try to avoid getting shot whenever he can, cause that apparently still hurts. As the pilot opens, Amsterdam is chasing a murder suspect, when something odd happens — he has a heart attack and dies. Well, sort of. The reason is Dr. Sara Dillane (Alexie Gilmore), who just happens to be in the vicinity when Amsterdam’s heart attack takes place.
Of course, Amsterdam isn’t really dead. He soon wakes up from his “death”, just in time to be introduced to his new partner, Eva Marquez (Zuleikha Robinson). Immediately, Marquez gets the idea that her new partner isn’t the safest guy to be around. A fellow Detective advises her to get insurance, while their superior tells her that Amsterdam’s partners tend to drop like flies. She is, in fact, his fifth partner this year. But that’s not going to deter Marquez, one of those too tough for her own good female cops with a lot to prove.
Back to our main man. His “death” puts Amsterdam’s life into a tailspin. He isn’t supposed to die until his true love enters his life, so what does this mean? First, Amsterdam has to find her, which means standing at the subway platform where she first entered his life. Unbeknownst to Amsterdam, the woman is Dr. Sara Dillane, who just happens to be the same woman who rushed him to the hospital after his heart attack and pronounced him dead. I guess this is going to make their courtship a little awkward, huh?
New Amsterdam has an easy charm about it. Amsterdam seems to be pretty open about his immortality, and casually admits to having lived hundreds of years, probably because no one believes him anyway and takes what he says (like his 600+ girlfriends) as a joke. It also has plenty of tragedy. Amsterdam’s life is littered with broken hearts, women he enters relationships with in hopes that they are his soulmate, only to discover otherwise. Amsterdam later makes a telling observation: he now knows why vampires have no reflection in the mirror; it is to hide the reminder of staying the same throughout the centuries, as everyone and everything around them turns old and dies.
Overall, the pilot episode is well done, and provides an intriguing look into the life of John Amsterdam. Casting Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the titular role was a brilliant idea; Waldau has that European look about him that sells the character. British actress Zuleikha Robinson also does a mean New Yawker, and Alexie Gilmore provides a nice love interest for Amsterdam. It will be really interesting to see how the show continues to interconnect Amsterdam and Sara, and how long it’ll take before Robinson’s Marquez starts to realize that her strange partner sure seems to know a whole lot about things from the past.
New Amsterdam’s premise may be sci-fi, but the show itself doesn’t seem especially interested in taking the sci-fi route beyond the Amsterdam as an immortal base. Actually, the show looks and feels more like your standard cop drama, with the added twist that Amsterdam is a cop who can’t die — or at least, not yet. No doubt Amsterdam’s long past will provide a lot of fodder for more interesting asides in future episodes, as well as his love life — or, to be more specific, the trail of broken hearts that he’s left in his wake.
New Amsterdam is a good show, and if FOX gives it half a chance, it should win some fans. The crime stuff is just background noise; the really good stuff is Amsterdam’s personal life — or lives, as it were.
New Amsterdam premieres March 4, 2008 on FOX.
Lasse Hallström (director) / Allan Loeb, Christian Taylor (screenplay)
CAST: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau … John Amsterdam
Alexie Gilmore … Dr. Sara Dillane
Jamie Harrold … Mank
Susan Misner … Callie Burnett
Zuleikha Robinson … Eva Marquez