Did you know that New Amsterdam hospital, the titular setting of NBC’s latest tear-jerking drama series, has the highest mortality rate for a medical center in New York? That’s “the Beyoncé of mortality rates,” one doctor states with a straight face – one of the pilot’s many cringe-inducing lines. But, don’t worry, America’s latest White Doctor is here to save the many near-dead patients, and he’s coming in the form of Dr. Max Goodwin, a newly appointed medical director with a mission!
You see, the problem with New Amsterdam is that doctors don’t care anymore! They’re all burnt-out from years of work, and now only care about their bottom lines, or golfing with the more high-class patients that occasionally stop in for a check-up (don’t worry, the show breezes by these claims without ever really backing them up).
The thesis of this series is simple: the problem with America’s medical system is that most doctors just don’t care, and we need people like Max (Ryan Eggold) in power, because they want to do something about it. But he’s not alone: Janet Montgomery plays a doctor who does care… so much so that her love life is, naturally, a total mess!
Meanwhile, Jocko Sims and Tyler Labine play the only doctors in their respective departments (cardiac surgery and psychology) who care. And Freema Ageyman (so good in Sense8, wasted here) plays the public face of the hospital, who makes frequent talk show appearances to promote the hospital, but avoids actually treating patients (again, don’t ask). But don’t worry… she secretly cares, too.
Viewed on the most basic level, New Amsterdam is a serviceable drama that gives its intended audience exactly what it wants. NBC struck gold with This Is Us, and seem dedicated to making their viewers cry in the hopes of earning massive success.
New Amsterdam attempts to turn on the water works right out of the gate, with monologues about dead family members, a B-plot about a troubled teen who wants to avoid entering a foster home, some third-act pregnancy scares and, finally, a closing montage set to…you guessed it… “Fix You” by Coldplay. This sort of series has been done before, and to far greater success, but it is almost perfectly calibrated to scratch a very specific TV itch. And, at the very least, the actors try their hardest with terrible material.
But there is something that feels entirely irresponsible about New Amsterdam and, frankly, taints the show. It’s important to talk about problems with America’s medical industry, specifically the faulty systemic structures that make conditions worse for patients. But these are complicated issues that require genuine analysis, and New Amsterdam is not interested in doing any of the homework required. It does not even attempt to talk about health insurance, or the role that our government plays in healthcare, and instead tells its audience that by simply firing doctors and replacing them with people who really care, all our medical issues will cease to exist.
This is a show made for people who angrily share memes on Facebook and fight in the comments with both friends and strangers, but fail to actually research the issue that’s being discussed. New Amsterdam wants to make its opinions known, but doesn’t even care to make sure they know what they’re talking about.
If New Amsterdam wanted to be just another medical show then, sure, that’s fine – network TV is filled with rather generic entries into enduring genres, whether they be crime procedurals, legal thrillers, or medical dramas. But New Amsterdam chooses to separate itself by being about something different – healthcare reform. And, in order to do that, they should be held to a certain standard. And the truth is, they clearly don’t care about leading an informed discussion.
Instead, they basically boil down issues into an Upworthy-esque headline, and then tack on cliches and melodrama to sweep people up and forge empathetic connections between the viewer and the characters. Funny enough, I agree with Dr. Max Goodwin, even if he is just another annoying white savior trope – America’s healthcare system does need major reform! But, in the world we’re living in, I just can’t get behind a series that encourages, no, demands that viewers enter complicated debates without even the slightest bit of information.
Overall rating: 2 out of 10
New Amsterdam airs Tuesday nights on NBC.