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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

'New Amsterdam' Proves Morbidly Mortal

The long and tumultuous story of New Amsterdam will finally bare fruit tonight when it debuts on Fox. Unfortunately, after being delayed, held back and who knows what else, the fruit appears to have gone rotten.

The critical reception is bad across the board -- the only thing close to a positive review comes in a series of backhanded complements from the Washington Post -- and despite the fact it'll probably do well with its quirky premise and American Idol lead-in, don't waste your time.

Immortal or not, John Amsterdam ain't long for this world.

  • Mo Ryan - Chicago Tribune: “'American Idol' has raked in untold billions for Fox. As a result, the network has gotten noticeably lax in its development of new shows - and its few dependable veterans are also wearing thin. Sure, 'House' is terrific, but the medical drama (which returns in late April) is the exception. And besides, it debuted four years ago.

    "I’d like to be able to tell you that 'New Amsterdam' — and the upcoming Fox programs 'Canterbury’s Law' and 'The Return of Jezebel James' — are the exceptions to the rule that most of the network’s shows are lazily constructed, highly derivative time-wasters."

  • Matthew Gilbert - Boston Globe: "The gimmick is that New York homicide detective John Amsterdam has remained 30-something years old since 1642, when he saved a Native American girl from death and she granted him immortality in return. 'You will not grow old, you will not die until you find the one and your souls are wed,' she told John, then a Dutch soldier in the colony that would become New York City. Now, more than 360 years later, weary and reckless, he longs to find his soul mate and proceed toward a natural death. 'If I find her,' he says to a friend who knows his plight, 'it will all have value. Time will have value.'

  • Robert Bianco - USA Today: "It's one thing for a fantasy to be unbelievable, another to be illogical. Lapses in logic pull us out of the story: We're less willing to suspend disbelief for the aspects of the story that are beyond our natural experience if we can't accept those parts with which we're familiar. What's worse, they're usually a sign that the producers don't have a firm-enough grasp on their story and are winging it as they go along."
  • Diane Wertz - Newsday: "How does 400-year-old original Dutch settler turned present-day sleuth John Amsterdam get such a prime police gig? How'd he get a Social Security number? And wouldn't he need a new one every 30 years or so since he never ages? How often does he have to change jobs/identities so no one notices? And how come no seniors from the 'old' life ever recognize this hot young stud as somebody who looked exactly the same a half-century back?"
  • Tim Goodman - SF Chronicle: "Maybe all the plot holes can be covered up with believable explanations. But beyond the questions raised so far, 'New Amsterdam' is pretty hokey, not especially compelling and altogether flat (except for the shots of a very vibrant New York City).

    "You can be immortal if you want, but that doesn't make it any less boring."

  • Alan Sepinwall - NJ Star-Ledger: "Even attempts to use Amsterdam's long life as a story point -- he knows every obscure corner of the five boroughs and has picked up useful skills over the years, like lip-reading, and an encyclopedia worth of knowledge -- doesn't differentiate the cop stuff enough from what else is out there. Gil Grissom and Robert Goren and Adrian Monk haven't been alive since the 17th century, and yet their knowledge base seems roughly on par with Amsterdam's.

    "I understand that solving crimes is the highest career aspiration a TV character can have -- second and third place would be practicing medicine and practicing law, which, conveniently, Amsterdam has also done -- and I'm sure "cop show with a supernatural twist" is a lot easier to sell to a network and then an audience than 'immortal guy has loosely-defined adventures over a period of several centuries.' It just seems like a waste. Why take a character with many lifetimes worth of possible stories to tell and strand him in a format that the networks have recently worked to death?"

  • Ginia Bellafante - NY Times: "The filmmaker Lasse Hallstrom has directed the pilot with cool, almost metallic tones, as if trying to conceal the show’s distorted bedrock sentimentality. He can’t. The cinematography is a stylish and sophisticated veneer, though, much like Mr. Coster-Waldau himself, a chilly presence with the look and aura of someone who has steeled himself from wanting too much more."
  • John Maynard - Washington Post: "'New Amsterdam' is a decent detective drama, executive-produced by Lasse Hallstrom."

    "The first two episodes made available to critics provide enough twists and turns to keep the casual viewer guessing whodunit, but if you subside on a steady diet of 'CSI,' 'Law & Order' and their spawn, you might catch on fast."

Keywords: New Amsterdam, Fox, Pilot, Review, Preview, Media, Reception, Critics



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