New Amsterdam (TV Series)

How can I help?

Dr Max Goodwin

Last weekend, I was visiting some friends and I was told all about New Amsterdam. My initial response was the response I expect most doctors to share: scepticism about yet another medical drama. However, I’m friends with my friends for many reasons and we have many shared interests so I gave it a go.

My regular disclaimer follows: I have not read the book on which this series is based. That is Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital by Dr Eric Manheimer. I may even give it a go, having watched the first five episodes of this season.

The pilot has a voice over. Not the pontificating kind of voice over, of the sort pervades other medical dramas, with a message of the week and some heavy-handed imagery, but rather a very literal voice over, describing that characters’ actions. By the second episode, there is no voice over. It is no great loss.

The series follows Dr Max Goodwin, who becomes the medical director of New Amsterdam, a public hospital in New York. He’s presented as a man of the people and one of his first acts is to fire the entire cardiac staff which although done for admirable reasons, seems a little short-sighted given the prevalence of cardiac disease. Max is played by Ryan Eggold. Ryan Eggold is younger than me, by the by, which seems rather too young to be a medical director but that’s neither here nor there. He plays Max very well and it’s not his fault that Max isn’t the most interesting character, for all that he’s someone to whom A Lot Happens.

Freema Agyeman, as oncologist, Helen Sharpe, is one of the most interesting characters. She is introduced as being caught up in PR for the hospital, embracing a certain celebrity status and doing the circuit of talk shows. The series follows her return to being a doctor as well as navigating the life of a single woman, with fertility issues. Janet Montgomery is Lauren Bloom, the head of the emergency department, and her complex relationship with Floyd Reynolds (Jocko Sims) is a very promising storyline. Reynolds is the only surviving cardiothoracic surgeon, mostly because he is the only one with integrity. The regular cast is rounded out by the always-wonderful Anupam Kher as Dr Vijay Kapoor, a rather old-school neurologist who certainly doesn’t hurry himself to make diagnoses (no offence to my neurologist friends but this seems rather accurate!) and Tyler Labine as Dr Iggy Frome, a psychiatrist, who potentially has the most interesting backstory and personal life.

What I like:

The characters, the relationships they navigate, the setting of a public hospital with some complex features, like a high-security ward that’s an offshoot of Riker’s Island. Also, the pacing really works for me. Yes, there’s a case or two of the week which is very formulaic, but the over-riding character arcs don’t feel rushed and I like that aspect a lot. Oh, and also:

What I don’t like:

The medicine wouldn’t, ah, be the most accurate.

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