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Third-episode verdict: New Amsterdam

Posted on March 12, 2008 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Carusometer for New AmsterdamA Carusometer rating of 2

Time for a third-episode verdict on old mopey guts, then. 

So far, it's what you'd called "intelligent drama" – thoughtful, occasionally clever, but not desperately interesting. It's the everyday story of a Dutch settler who, three hundred years ago, saved a Native American and got rewarded with eternal life until he meets his one true love. Over that time, he's lived a little – taught history at university, served in the marines, army and navy, been a lawyer and so on – and now has a wealth of experience to inform his regular work as a police detective.

Each week, we get a new case that reminds our hero of a particular time of his life, much as his fellow immortal, Duncan Macleod of Highlander, always got reminded of something that required lengthy flashbacks. However, the flashbacks are more like a potted Mad Men, used more as history and culture lessons than simply illustrations of the hero's life. Want to know what battlefield medicine was like in 1862 or society's attitudes to black-white relationships during the Second World War? Tune in to New Amsterdam then.

The cases themselves are a touch more interesting than the average cop show's, with Amsterdam using his expert knowledge of knots or psychiatry to finger the guilty suspect, typically with minimal input from his constantly irritable and irritating generic female Latina partner (cf Life, Lost), who doesn't really get to do much apart from wonder if Amsterdam is a congenital liar or a loon.

Also unlike Highlander is John Amsterdam's family life. This is more in line with Simone de Beauvoir's All Men Are Mortal, with our hero having spawned children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, et al over the years and outlived virtually all of them. Naturally, this adds a touch more depth, particularly since some of them are still around and a lot older looking than he is.

As of yet, the fated love sub-plot/show's raison d'être has yet to really do much, although rather than the inevitable coming together of the two souls you might have suspected, the show is clearly instead going to dwell on the thorny question that many a geek will be able to empathise with: how do you make a woman you think is really hot dump her current partner and fall in love with you?

I suspect they're going to spin out the answer longer than they did in Moonlight though. 

It's thoughtful, well put together and clever. It's got some nice mandolin music. But bar John Amsterdam and his history, there's nothing really interesting about the show: the supporting characters lack well rounded personalities or charisma and there's so much talk and so little action, you wonder if perhaps you haven't started watching Dutch TV by accident. It could be intriguing further down the line, but as of yet, it's not yet found itself a true hook to get us watching.

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