I Propose a Name-Change to “Same Ol’ Boring Amsterdam”

Okay, so, I finally watched the pilot of New Amsterdam last night.  Here’s the short version of my reaction to it:  yawn!

And now for the long version, complete with a bad joke about Ralph Nader.  Read on:

For those who were smart enough not to tune in, this new FOX series is about a dude named John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, or, as I like to call him, “Nik Something-Whazzit”) who, four hundred years ago, tried to keep a Native American woman from being killed and got run through with a sword for his trouble.  To thank him . . . I guess?. . . the woman brought him back to life and made him immortal, telling him that he’d live until he met the perfect woman and their souls “wed,” and then he’d finally grow old and die. 

Oddly enough, John’s response to this wasn’t, “Lady, you need to stop smoking whatever’s in that pipe, seriously. . .” but instead, “Gee whiz!  How will I know when I’ve met her?” to which the Native American woman replies, “You’ll feel it here,” and nudges his heart.

Flash forward four centuries, and John is now a homicide detective in New York City.  One day, he’s chasing a perp, runs onto a subway platform, and wham!  Has a heart attack.  When he comes back to life in the morgue, he realizes it can only have been because SHE, Miss Right!, was somewhere on that subway platform with him — thus setting up the over-arching storyline for the series:  Quest for Perfect Girl.

Meanwhile, he’s also called in on a crime scene and set up with a new partner, a young woman who instantly reveals herself to be just like every other young female detective character ever to grace a TV crime series.  Blah blah, they bicker a lot, blah blah.  Someday, I want to be offered a role like that one myself so I can roll my eyes, throw the script at the writer, and storm out in an annoyed huff.  But that’s just me.

The actual “mystery” in the pilot episode was about as throwaway as they come.  A mere half a day or so later, I can’t even tell you what it was about, to be honest.  Something about a politician having an affair with a younger woman who ends up dead.  And then the politician’s son turns out to be gay.  Produced and directed by Lasse Halstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat, The Shipping News), and THAT’S the best they could do?  I’ve seen more intriguing cases on Cops, frankly.

Even worse than being boring, though, was the fact so many elements of this show were either totally unoriginal or just plain stupid.

First of all, you know what would be truly refreshing?  A show about an immortal guy who wasn’t all bummed out about living forever.  I mean, come on — Ralph Nader’s been around for at least 400 years himself (feels like!), and you don’t see him whining about it.  Granted, it would be hard to see your friends and family die around you, not to mention having to watch the two-party system continue on and on despite your best efforts, but in trade you’d never get gray hair or Alzheimer’s.  Your joints would never ache.  You’d never get sick.  You’d never lose your mobility or energy.  You could spend a decade living in every city in the world, changing your job, your friends, your everything as often as you wanted to. 

Is this appealing to me only because I was a military kid?  Because, seriously, I just don’t get what’s so unbearably awful about living forever.  Do these immortal brooders have no curiosity?  Amsterdam gets to live forever and he just parks his eternal butt in New York City for good?  Why on earth would you do that?

And while we’re at it, can someone explain to me how you can be a homicide detective if you’ve been 40 years old for 400 years? At least they tried to give this some semblance of sense on Moonlight, where Vampire Mick is a PI with no co-workers, no training at the police academy (lo, the many “Gramps” jokes Amsterdam must’ve had to endure when HE was in the academy. . . maybe that’s why he’s so cranky?), and he spends most of his time trying to stay out of the spotlight so nobody takes notice of him too much.  Amsterdam, on the other hand, is sleeping with 600+ women, lovin’ ’em and leavin’ ’em left and right, and swimming naked every night in the pool at the YMCA.  NOT exactly what I’d call “clandestine.”

Also, we’re supposed to believe this guy is a prestigious homicide detective when one of the first things he does at his crime scene is smear his ungloved finger through a drop of blood potentially left by the killer?  Lived 400 years, never seen a single episode of CSI

Oh the carping — I will stop now.  And besides, I can grant you this: there were a few things about the show I liked.  I liked that John’s completely open about his age with people and they just assume he’s being a sarcastic ass (15,000 days sober, e.g., “you remind me of my last 600 girlfriends,” e.g.).   And I got a chuckle out of his dog being named “36.”  I also liked the ol’ ruse with the furniture, though I can’t actually see how that would work. Are antique dealers really going to buy a piece of furniture for $80 grand that is ostensibly 400 years old and not have it tested for authenticity of age?  But whatever — I can live with that.

All in all, though, I have to say I was pretty unimpressed.  Nevertheless, I do make it a standing policy never to dump a show after only seeing its pilot.  They had to spend some time setting up the dumb (dumb!) Native American curse thingy, for one thing, and if we can get a little distance on that silliness, that might help.  And they also had to set up the contentious (dumb!) partner relationship, which I’m hoping will smooth out much as it did on Life after a few episodes.  And maybe I will eventually start to find John Amsterdam himself charming instead of obnoxious — doubtful, but possible. 

Hey, and maybe they can even get Nader to do a cameo.  Get a guy on the show who actually has some real-life experience with refusing to EVER go away. 

In other words, I’ll be tuning in for episode two tonight.  And once I’ve seen it, I’ll come back here and post a yea or nay in the comments to let you know if I intend to keep going.

Incidentally, up next on FOX is Julianna Margulies’s new series, Canterbury’s Law, which debuts next Monday at 8pm.  Will I be dumb enough to watch another FOX series just one week after this one?  Oh please — you have to ask?

7 Responses to “I Propose a Name-Change to “Same Ol’ Boring Amsterdam””

  1. Liz Says:

    OH DEAR! I rather liked “N.A.,” even though I still say it has some strong similarities to “Highlander” (boy I miss that show). Specifically: the “historical” flashbacks, the friend who knows the Immortal’s secret (like the “Watchers,” but not – did you catch the pic of him as a young man, serving in the military with Amsterdam?), and the difficulty in seeing friends age and die, and feeling like death is eluding you.

    But in some ways its quite different, and I didn’t even mind the female cop, although I agree – I’m getting tired of all the partners who bicker, but you know they’re going to end up liking each other! I like this bickering better, though, because it seems more belligerent, and not so darn cutesy.

    AND MY HUSBAND LIKED THE SHOW! So now we have to keep trying it. (We stuck with “Sarah Connor” too, even though we were a bit under-whelmed by it.) He reminded me that “New Amsterdam” was the original name for NYC, when it was founded by the Dutch. I knew that, but I had forgotten.

    Also, there was a rather poignant scene where John visits an aging artist, in connection with a clue about the murder. It becomes apparent that they knew each other, though she can’t remember who he is, because she has Alzheimer’s. That’s already sad, but then at the last minute, she remembers him, and talks about how he left her! I think that’s ample reason in and of itself for him to not really enjoy immortality!

    I finally signed up for “Netflix,” and am waiting, with baited breath, for “30 Days of Night.” So I’m not going to read your review until I’ve seen it, and then I’ll compare my reactions to yours. Believe me, I’d rather agree with you all the time!

  2. megwood Says:

    You found that scene with the elderly woman poignant? For me, it was the scene that so revealed Amsterdam’s callous nature, frankly. It wasn’t that he loved her and had to leave her because he knew she’d grow old and he wouldn’t — she says something like, “Why did you make me sacrifice so much for you if you were just going to leave me?” And it wasn’t like he was a newbie to the immortality thing at that time — that would’ve been only 50 years ago, out of the 400 he’s been alive. He’s still treating women like that? Making them give things up to keep him, just to cast them aside a few months later?

    Color me YUCK.

    I actually finished the episode feeling really sorry for Miss Right, because surely she deserves a lot better than that schmuck!

    But I’m still planning to watch last night’s episode before I completely write it off. By the way, I didn’t catch that his friend is also immortal — is that what you’re saying? Serving in the military — the only time I remember seeing Amsterdam in the military was in the flashbacks from 400 years ago. How would his friend in the bar also be immortal??

  3. megwood Says:

    p.s. Can’t wait to hear what you think of 30 Days of Night! Congrats on the Netflix subscription — it’s my favorite way to spend money, personally! 🙂

  4. megwood Says:

    Just FYI, I’ve seen episode two now and it was MUCH improved. A good sense of humor (loved the scene in which he knows all the morgue guy’s punchlines), and I liked the “twist” in which it turns out he’s kept in touch and been honest with his kids from each generation (his old pal in the bar, his secretary in the 40’s, etc.). Also, I better understand now why he was dating women for long periods of time, letting them get close, letting them give things up for him, etc. He didn’t know how he’d know when he found The One — just had to wait it out and see if he aged, he assumed. I forgive him for Old Artist Lady, then. At least for now.

    The mystery was better as well. Might be one that just stumbled badly out of the gate — not uncommon — and then finds it footing as it goes. I’ll give it a try again next week too.

  5. Aeryn Says:

    Total lurker here, been reading your stuff for five years now and not a peep in the presence of the great Meg. 🙂 Anyway, re: your comment about an immortal guy who moves on and learns, I have something for you: If you haven’t seen “The Man from Earth”, please do! I’m pretty sure you’ll love it. I know I did.
    And now I’ll sneak off to the shadows.

  6. megwood Says:

    Nope, haven’t seen “The Man from Earth” — sounds good, though! I’ll start poking around for it ASAP! Thanks for peeking out of the lurk, Aeryn! 🙂

  7. Lorraine Says:

    After seeing the second episode, I’m sticking with it too. I enjoy how they integrate the flashbacks with the current action. The twist with the bar guy was unexpected and interesting. I forgive John for being a little callous. It must be tough to keep losing the people that you love.

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