‘New Amsterdam’ Season 1 TV Review: The True Successor To ‘ER’

Published by Shah Shahid on

New Amsterdam could quite possibly be the first successor to one of the best medical dramas in TV history, ER.

I was a big fan of ER. It was one of the longest running (at the time) network TV shows and the sort of content and stories it told were honestly mesmerizing. It was also was one of those TV shows that saw massive talent come through its ensemble cast who then went on to bigger and better things. George Clooney, Linda Cardellini, Ming-Na Wen, and John Stamos are but a few of the names that were on ER.

So when a new medical drama imbibes a similar spirit to that of ER, I pay attention.

New Amsterdam is about one of America’s longest running and oldest publicly run hospitals, and its struggle to provide care for its patients while running through a myriad of challenges. The series begins with a new Medical Director taking over, and shaking things up. Overachiever Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) is an eagerly idealistic and stubborn doctor who decides that he can make a difference through the hospital, New Amsterdam. His aggressive restructuring ruffles many feathers, while bringing out the potential in others.

New Amsterdam begins on the premise of a messiah hero who challenges the establishment for the greater good. But the show quickly transforms into an amazing series that tells heartwarming stories while also keeping the tension and drama tight and engaging. Unlike many other modern day medical dramas, New Amsterdam doesn’t really rely on any outward gimmicks to keep audiences engaged.

There is no junkie genius protagonist. No main character with a disadvantage. And no outrageous setting of a war zone or anything else. It’s a straight forward medical drama with real characters with real problems, personal and professional, who all try to reconnect with why they do what they do when Max enters their lives.

The ensemble cast is but one of the reasons why New Amsterdam succeeds. Goodwin’s shake-up sees it’s the first victim in Dr. Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman), a super successful and media savvy Oncologist who spends her time travelling the world, doing public relations for New Amsterdam in an effort to keep the hospital in the limelight and good graces of its donors and board. Goodwin immediately grounds her and demands more time from her in the hospital itself. Thus begins a tumultuous relationship that eventually becomes one of the show’s more rewarding pairings.

Others of note are Dr. Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine), the plucky psychologist who has a unique method of reaching his patients, and the extremely diligent and thorough Neurologist, Dr. Vijay Kapoor (Anupam Kher). This odd-couple pairing of friends also provides many of the light-hearted moments of the show, and Kher and Labine’s chemistry together is palpable.

And sure, at first, maybe I started watching New Amsterdam because my Bollywood bud Kher was on as a lead character. But I quickly became a fan of everything else going on. Coincidentally, Anupam Kher also appeared on a minor story arc in ER, with his real-life wife, Kirron Her, as parents to Parminder Nagra’s character.

New Amsterdam is delightfully real, while somehow maintaining a sense of optimism that never borders on the cliche or overly cheery. This is achieved by the main character, Goodwin. Eggold’s performance and the way the character has been written is that of an overly passionate, borderline obnoxious, doctor who wants to leave a legacy of doing the right thing.

It’s incredibly rare these days to find optimism in depictions of realism that you can’t roll your eyes at. New Amsterdam is able to tell such stories that do just that. And when things do get a little too mushy, it’s almost always called out in the show itself.

The series outdoes itself when trying to be exactly what is it, and nothing more. The everyday stories stay restricted to the characters, and their journeys and emotions, without making a statement about anything else. Another rare thing these days; stories about characters and their lives, and not about the world or time they live in.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of 20+ episode network TV series, so liking or even recommending New Amsterdam is kind of a big deal for me. But for a network show, there isn’t many filler episodes or useless things happening through the season. The storytelling feels tight and paced well with moments of levity and high wire tension used effectively through the first season.

New Amsterdam is a great medical drama that focuses on its diverse characters, and how being medical professionals affect their every day, while entangling us into their lives, heartbreaks and happiness in delightfully enjoyable ways.

New Amsterdam just completed Season 1 on NBC.

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad

1 Comment

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