I know I haven’t discussed this show since the first two episodes, and it has nothing to do with a lack of interest. Quite the contrary, in fact. It easily remains my favorite new show since Heroes, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every episode with each passing week. However, I unfortunately am unable to watch the show when it airs on Mondays, and by the time I do get to watch the episode, it’s usually only a couple days before the new episode airs. So, ultimately, I decided it’d be much easier and more effective to just write about the first season as a whole.
Also, since most people do not know actress Alexie Gilmore as “Alexie” like I do, I will bite the bullet and refer to her as her character name, Sara. I hope you readers appreciate that, because I’m likely going to have to go back and fix all of the times I call her by her real name.
I’m THRILLED that the show has been receiving such raving reviews from the general public. Both Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide have sung its praises — and I’d like to think they have some influence. In fact, in the last edition of TV Guide, New Amsterdam was not only the featured piece of reader mail (where the show was praised), it was also the Reader’s Cheer of the Week. I hope Fox is paying attention to this!
Anyway, I’m not going to discuss the show episode by episode. Instead, I’m going to talk about what I like about the show, and what I dislike or think needs improvement.
After the first two episodes or so, you can really see that the writers became comfortable with how they want to use flashbacks as a supplement to the present-day story. Like I’ve said before, it’s very reminiscent of Lost. Basically, there’s an overall theme or narrative (for example, the importance of family or children paying for the sins of their parents), and the flashbacks show how John — in his own past — personally experienced this lesson. I think Lost is a fair comparison because there’s a great fluidity between the flashbacks and present-day, where it doesn’t feel disjointed or choppy. It also helps us slowly but surely learn about our protagonist.
Speaking of John, he’s a huge reason why I enjoy the show. He’s charming and likable, and his vast knowledge and expertise of pretty much everything is a lot of fun to watch. I’m sure there are some that find it old, but I still love how he arrives on the scene, and just spews out the complete history of whatever surrounds him. I also like how he’s so open and honest about his immortality and all that he has done, but he says it in such a dry manner that everybody just basically blows off what he’s saying. Incidentally, this is usually my response to when people (who don’t watch the show) complain about how nobody notices that he’s never aged. I always say, “he’s not even really trying to hide it.”
What I also like about John’s character — which has been established through flashbacks — is that despite his charm and trivial knowledge, he’s NOT perfect. In his flashbacks we’ve learned that he was once a destructive alcoholic. We’ve discovered that he’s cheated on wives, abandoned families, stolen from innocent people, and driven people to do terrible things. One of his lines was very poignant (and I’m paraphrasing here), when he said “when you punch a guy in the bar, it may lead to something terrible happening 200 years from now. People just don’t live long enough to realize that.” I suppose that it’s fair to say that the reason he is so seemingly “perfect” right now is because he realizes the impact his actions have on the world around him.
I also appreciate the fact that the show has some structure and isn’t TOO gimmicky. Instead of making the show entirely about him being immortal and trying to find his soul mate, each episode has its own crime mystery that needs to be solved.
Finally, while I fully hope that Sara IS John’s true soul mate — due to the fact that I’d love for Alexie’s role to continue and develop into something bigger — I think the show did a wonderful job of creating a little mystery there. John initially “died” on the subway and convinced himself that Sara was the love of his life. But there were hundreds of people at the subway station, so it could have just have easily been somebody else. When he got shot but didn’t die, was it because he’s immortal, meaning that Sara isn’t “The One,” or was the wound simply not fatal?
I’ve openly admitted that I would be shilling this show even if I thought it was an atrocity, so just to prove to you that I’m not doing that now, I will tell you a few things i don’t like about the show.
First off, I HATE the female sergeant character. She seemingly serves no purpose other than to be a terrible cliche. Yeah, yeah, the sassy female boss who is at times tough, but at other times compassionate, who gives her team a hard time, but will always support and defend them, who goes out of her way to remind people she’s the boss, but still likes to show she’s down to earth and one of the gals. Yeah, been there, done that. Didn’t like it the first time I saw it. What makes matters worse is that she seemingly popped up out of no where, and did nothing but interfere with the chemistry that was just starting to come together with the already established cop characters.
The only other complaint I have is that I really think they screwed the pooch by having John and Sara get together so early. I understand that the show didn’t yet know whether it was being picked up for a second season when these episodes were written (and as far as I know, they still don’t know that), but I think this was a big mistake. When they had John meet Sara in the second or so episode, I remember thinking to myself “now how are they going to manage to keep them apart for so long?” At the conclusion of the next episode, when Sara revealed that she was married, I thought they had come up with the perfect solution. They could have Sara involved in a troubled marriage that she’d like to make work, but at the same time have lingering, growing feelings for this stranger that she just met. While John is desperate to be with her, she’s desperately trying to make her marriage work. It would create a really great dichotomy, where nobody is the “bad” guy or “good” guy, with viewers relating to each side. How could you not respect a girl who doesn’t want to cheat? But at the same time, John’s been waiting 400 years to be with this woman, so can you blame him for trying?
So you can imagine my disappointment when, following the episode that we find out she’s married, we never again see her husband. Actually, I think she ended up sleeping with John the very next episode. To me, this was totally unnecessary. Virtually everything that happened between these characters could have easily happened without them getting together. In fact, I think certain things (like Sara developing strong feelings for John, only to feel betrayed by his supposed secrets) would have been more powerful had they not been sleeping together. For Sara, her predicament would have been all that much upsetting: How could she think of cheating on her husband with a man who won’t even be honest with her?
However, like I said, I do understand WHY they probably wrote it this way. They likely wanted to give the viewers some sense of resolution should the show get cancelled. That’s admirable in its own way, but I would have preferred a little patience (and confidence, quite frankly).
Nevertheless, New Amsterdam gets a resounding two thumbs up from me. I definitely suggest this show to anybody who enjoys crime shows, mysteries, and the sci-fi/fantasy genre in particular. If you’re a fan of Buffy and especially Angel, you should be watching this show. I really hope this show gets picked up for a second (full) season, and I’m not just saying that because one of the stars is a long-time friend of mine. Cross your fingers everyone! Here’s hoping….