Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: 'New Amsterdam' review

Today's column reviews "New Amsterdam," Fox's new cop show about an NYPD cop who happens to be immortal. It might be good if it weren't actually a cop show.

28 comments:

David J. Loehr said...

It actually is quite good without the cop show trappings. Except that would be Forever by Pete Hamill.

The show's creator and producers can defend it all they want, but there are just too many idiosyncratic details, like the name "Eve" hidden in the word "Forever" as a clue at one point. If it were a better show, it might have been worth defending.

Kristin said...

Well, I already suspect this show will have a huge female fanbase because of the star. He's lovely to look at. And I go for a romantic kind of story anyday...even if it is buried in a cop drama. I really don't care.

I'm not looking for a good procedural show or a good mystery...just a good-looking guy who is 'damaged' or 'troubled' by things in his past. Sigh...

Yes, it is a show for the ladies....

Kristen said...

I thought this show sounded cool when I first heard about it last summer. I'll probably check it out.

My initial question based on the review: It takes him 300+ years to find his true love? So, if he wasn't immortal, he would have had no chance of meeting "the one" in his lifetime? That is kind of a depressing idea.

Anonymous said...

This is the problem of the modern television writer; when confronted with the adage "write what you know," they know only other TV shows, and thus, their work is derivative. So, in a series like "New Amsterdam," we get (presumably, based on your comments) a tired retread of the same cop show cliches perpetrated by writers who know about cops only from other cop show cliches. This is one reason why "The Wire" is as good as it is; its writers have real world experience to draw upon from jobs other than TV writers. Not so in most other cases. I'd like to see a TV writer spent 6 months (or their strike downtime) on a beat with a cop to obtain some more grit and realism for their show. But it is not to be.

To boot, it sounds like this show has robbed a few plot points from "Angel" in order create its mythology.

dez said...

I'd like to see a TV writer spent 6 months (or their strike downtime) on a beat with a cop to obtain some more grit and realism for their show. But it is not to be.


Shows like The Wire benefit from that type of knowledge, yet don't get the kind of ratings that make TV execs salivate. I guess Americans overall don't want realism in their cop shows.

Nicole said...

I recall Alan discussing this show in the summer and there was mention that the show's creator and producers were completely unaware of another immortal show called "Highlander". If you're going to be a TV writer and not have any real life experience, then shouldn't you at least do a little bit of research to get a sense of the existing mythology already out there? That said, I did see the version leaked on the net months ago and I didn't hate it like I thought I would.

Alan Sepinwall said...

So many people have brought up the Pete Hamill thing today that I checked the transcript from that press tour session, and sure enough, someone asked about it, and the producer said while he had heard of the book while in the process of making the pilot, he had never read it.

This was, yes, the same session with the infamous, "I don't believe you when you say you've never see 'Highlander'" moment.

That First Andrew said...

So, I am a little confused: A Native American woman "blesses" him with immortality until he finds true love, but when he actually finds "the one" he'll die? So he can live forever without true love, or die this second with it? How is that a blessing?

Kristin said...

It's because most writers nowadays are 30 and under, I guess. They haven't seen any of this stuff...

Just like I am flabbergasted when "American Idol" contestants have never heard half of the famous songs they are singing, the same is true for these guys.

I remember back in college (early 90s), and the freshman had never seen the Star Wars trilogy and had no interest in it. This floored me. To me, it was a cultural icon of anyone born in the late 60s or 70s.

I consider myself a tv/movie junkie, but I've never seen an episode of "Angel." People were complaining about "Moonlight" being a rip-off of "Angel" as well, but the series did pretty darn well in its timeslot. So there is plenty of room for copy-cats (as seen by some on here).

No plot is original. Just remember that. It's all been done before....to some degree or another.

Alan Sepinwall said...

So, I am a little confused: A Native American woman "blesses" him with immortality until he finds true love, but when he actually finds "the one" he'll die? So he can live forever without true love, or die this second with it? How is that a blessing?

The idea is that, once he finds his true love, he becomes mortal but doesn't die, and in theory can grow old with her. What's confusing is that the first time this manifests itself, he's just been running full bore for a very long time for a guy who's biologically mid-'30s (even in the shape he's in) and, upon being exposed to The One, he has a heart attack and appears to die, and then as soon as she's away from him, he wakes up and goes back to being immortal.

These people are not sci-fi writers, and it's clear they haven't given much thought to the "rules" that the skiffy fans are often anal about.

Nicole said...

Actually, "Moonlight" rips off "Angel" which rips off "Forever Knight" but I take your point about nothing being original, after all Shakespeare ripped off plenty of people back in the day.

I don't care so much about the originality of the concept as much as the execution. Throwing in a weekly cop procedural seems kinda lazy and perhaps this aspect can be dropped in later episodes.

This would be the kind of concept that would work better with a finite amount of episodes, and so the interesting aspects could be developed without resorting to the cop procedural to stretch things out indefinitely.

To steal from Vinay Menon of the Toronto Star, this show currently is a cross between Highlander and CSI.

dez said...

To steal from Vinay Menon of the Toronto Star, this show currently is a cross between Highlander and CSI.

Does this mean someone will be trying to cut off his head while he's running around doing forensic? Because I might be up for a show like that.

These people are not sci-fi writers, and it's clear they haven't given much thought to the "rules" that the skiffy fans are often anal about.

And will immediately hit the 'Net so they can register their disgust about it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for depressing me, Alan. Now that I know that I won't meet my soulmate until 2358, what am I to do?

Michael said...

I've never seen an episode of Highlander or one of the movies, though I'm aware of the show's premise.

I'm passing on this one. It sounds interesting, potentially, but it smells like a clunker. It was supposed to be in the fall lineup, then it wasn't, then they cut short the order of episodes from 13 to 7, lots of rewrites... I think the show might be more interesting as a series of episodes or arcs in different time frames, seemingly standalone but part of a bigger storyline (a missing McGuffin, rumors of another like him, etc.)

Word verification: croww! Are they looking to MST3Kify this already?

Andrew said...

So, if I am hearing this right, if Johnny meets and marries this girl and they live happily ever after together, but she goes to a conference in Wichita and leaves him behind, he'll go back to living forever? Or what if they meet and fall in love, gorw old together, but she dies first? Does he then live for the rest of eternity, only as a 70 year old? That would suck.

Anonymous said...

TORCHWOOD.....Jack never does anything special either

Anonymous said...

Shows just enough promise (and hotness) to keep me occupied until Supernatural comes back from the strike-imposed hiatus... but probably no longer than that.

BigTed said...

This actually seems a lot like a whole lot of other current shows, including "Moonlight," about the immortal detective who's a vampire. Or "Life," about the quirky detective with a bemused and gorgeous female partner. Or "Journeyman," about a guy who solves mysteries and has experienced the recent past. Or, now that I think about it, "How I Met Your Mother."

Karen said...

Alan, I read your column but decided to watch the pilot myself because it made me curious. I have to say @kristin is on to something--the lead is incredibly lovely to look at, and that ain't hay.

The detective story was flimsy with what seemed like a lot of holes. The Mannahatta-era stuff was laughable. They're trying too hard to make their immortal guy someone who would have known everyone cool in NYC (or the world--the Bernhardt line was risible), although the fact that he's a renowned cabinetry-maker might be used a little to excuse that.

But, I'll tell you, I'm a New Yorker in the blood, and I really loved the NYC arcana (I think the speakeasy-cum-bar is supposed to be Chumley's, on Barrow Street), and the antique photos of Times Square through the ages, and the CGIed display of Times Square through the centuries. I just love that stuff.

So, while the skiffy elements are iffy, and the stories aren't great, and the auxiliary characters are cardboard cutouts, the prettiness of the star and the NYC-errificness will keep me coming back. Besides, any show that uses The Decemberists on its soundtrack already starts out with a big score in the plus column.

For what it's worth, I never watched "Highlander" and I've never read Forever, but I'm not sure that explains my willingness to watch. I totally get how "Anger" has been completely ripped-off by "Moonlight," but it's not that that makes "Moonlight" unwatchable--it's the complete absence of talent displayed by its cast, writers, and production crew.

mjryan said...

Now I want to read Pete Hamill's book.

I watched the pilot and enjoyed it. Like Karen, I think the historical aspects of New York city will be the most interesting part. I'm not a New Yorker, I just love history. I hand wave all of the sci fi aspects (of all sci fi shows) because I'm not watching to ensure the rules of immortality or time travel are adhered to. I want an engaging story, told well with interesting characters. I can't say New Amsterdam had all three in its first outing, but I'll give it a chance for a few more weeks.

Blankity-Blank said...

It's nice that somebody was willing to use Native American mysticism without a trace of irony again. That's what's been missing in our television lately, unapologetic ignorance.

That thing about an entire blood type being extinct got to me though. I never even considered that as a possibility.

Anyway, Lasse Hallstrom can suck the life out of anything. He's like the art house Brett Ratner. So maybe when she stops dircting, it'll get better. Unfortunately, most of us will never find out for sure.

Anonymous said...

One of my good friends is friends with Alexie Gilmore, so I gave the show a try.

I thought the column was dead on -- I liked the immortality stuff (especially the desk stuff), but the cop scenes were SO run of the mill. I spent the first half-hour thinking how every cop show has that scene with the two partners meeting. When they have the chemistry that the leads in, say, "Life" have, you can overlook it. Here, it just felt like been-there-seen-that.

Michael Sterling said...

Was anyone else bothered by the fact that Amsterdam's 65 year old son was just now bothered by the fact that his mother wasn't The One? I mean I can see how his finally running into her can bring it up, but from the way they talk about it it isn't like he just found out.

Kristin said...

I've seen the first two episodes now and really love it. Alan, to me the cop part of it is just a starting off point for John Amsterdam to remember his past life and let us see what he has experienced. Every time he runs across another murder, another tragedy, he is reminded of his own life and the people he's loved and lost.

It's a romance. In some ways it reminds me of "Beauty & the Beast" because of the sad nature of what John has been through while living as an immortal in a mortal world.

I'm looking forward to discovering more on Monday.

Alan Sepinwall said...

This episode was definitely the better of the two -- the revelation about Omar being John's son and all that followed was the first time the show got my attention -- but the cop storyline kept putting me back to sleep, even with Cutty from "The Wire" as the Token Disapproving Black Captain. I can't even remember what this case was about, and I watched the episode on Monday.

Anonymous said...

When i first heard about New Amsterdam, it seemed interesting (and not just because it was advertised for practically six months either) but in watching the comercials and finding a cop show in place of a supernatural romance/mystery, i can't say that i have the patience to watch a weary run-on of a clique of which on any given night, it would not phase me to turn the channel.

The plot outside of the detective work is actually a bit intriguing to the point where, at times, i cannot say that i was expecting the more original stuff, but other than the surmised fifteen minutes, minus commercials, of half-hearted captivation, i don't see the point in tuning in once a week to see the same old soap opera.

Syme said...

>I'd like to see a TV writer spent 6 >months...

How about a year; al la David Simon and "A year on the killing streets of B'more.."

The N.A. writing is blah. If his immortality is such a big secret; why is he dropping clues like an Irwin Allen show???

Anonymous said...

The biggest cliche in this show is the attitude toward love: there is one person out there that you just happen to meet, so you can "complete" each other. This show is explicit in this idea - that finding this soul mate is the one, truly important thing. It would be much more interesting to have a real person who knew something about real love live for hundreds of years. Someone who fell in love, married, had hard times, barely stuck it through some marriages (maybe divorced 2 or 10 times out a few dozen marriages), mourned the loss of multiple wives, and had to decide whether to love again or not. Instead, we get love as a magical lightning bolt and our "hero" standing in the rain with a golf club for a few hundred years. Boring.