TV Series Review
"First, do no harm."
That's what most of us non-doctors think we know about the Hippocratic Oath, a statement of care that all physicians are supposed to abide by. Easier said than done. Turns out, that phrase doesn't actually appear anywhere in the Hippocratic Oath.
And in the United States, where health-care costs can be prohibitive for some, the system can be a maze of red tape and long waits—especially for veterans. For those enduring seemingly interminable delays, that well-meaning phrase can easily ring hollow. Hippocratic? These critics would say. Try hypocritical.
Others might take issue with that characterization of the nation's health-care system, of course. But not the characters populating the rooms and corridors of NBC's medical drama New Amsterdam. These dedicated doctors, nurses and administrators want to change their hospital, one outlandishly exciting case at a time.
Physicians, Heal Thyselves!
All this do-gooding begins with the appropriately named Dr. Max Goodwin, who's given the keys to the storied New Amsterdam public hospital and told to keep the old gal running. Maybe even give her a little tune up.
But (continuing with the car metaphor) Max isn't content just to give the hospital an oil change. No, he yanks out the engine and starts rebuilding the thing, doctor by doctor. Gone are physicians who put "billing over care." He encourages his staff to see the ailing folks in New Amsterdam as "people." He's an idealist in scrubs, and he's surrounding himself with like-minded compassionate caregivers.
His most prominent hire is Dr. Helen Sharpe, a celebrity doctor who forsakes her cushy job on the morning telly to get in real medicine again. (Oh, and because she is kinda famous, Dr. Sharpe often serves as an effective spokesperson for the hospital when it comes to asking for money.) Others have been around for a bit longer and are (ahem) pretty familiar with each other. Take dedicated docs Laura Bloom and Floyd Reynolds. The former is such a talented doctor that she resurrects someone in the first episode. The latter is determined to populate his personal staff with folks of every race, gender and ethnicity. And he and Bloom sleep together on occasion, too.
But while Max and his well-meaning cohorts are indeed changing New Amsterdam, every day comes with its own special set of challenges. Patients with outrageously difficult problems roll in for help. The hospital's higher-ups are nervous about Goodwin's good intentions. And Max has some personal issues of his own: His own wife feels neglected. He's about to become a dad.
Oh, and he's harboring a cancerous tumor that really, really needs some attention.
Code Yellow, Level Four
Most mainstream critics have not been kind to New Amsterdam. It's more wish fulfilment than an actual drama, they say, led by an impossibly pure-of-heart leader (Max) who seems to have the answer for every problem. It suggests that the country's medical miasma can be conjured away through a magic stethoscope and good intentions. USA Today's Kelly Lawler calls it "achingly predictable, sickly sweet and emotionally manipulative."
True enough. But let me zag from that zeitgeist zig. I'd suggest that in our age of well-crafted but bleak dramas, there's still room for a show that offers a sweet respite (sickly or no) from TV's horrors elsewhere, a place where scripts can unapologetically pluck at heartstrings and "heroes" don't need an "anti" attached.
New Amsterdam has its issues. Of course it has issues. It's a medical drama, after all: Doctors sleep with other doctors. Patients come in with a variety of ailments that can touch on the risqué. The show certainly proffers plenty of thoughts on how to fix healthcare, too, ideas and ideals that conservative-leaning audiences may not jibe with.
But for all that, New Amsterdam, like its doctors, has heart. Its characters care about those who walk through these fictional doors, going above and beyond to help needy patients. These physicians and nurses act, in other words, like many of the real heroes in our midst: mothers and fathers, teachers and counselors, youth pastors and—yes—even doctors.
Do no harm? Can't say that New Amsterdam is harmless. But it wants to heal, too, showing us good people trying to do mostly good things.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
+Oct. 9, 2018: "Every Last Minute"
Readability Age Range
Ryan Eggold as Dr. Max Goodwin; Janet Montgomery as Dr. Lauren Bloom; Jocko Sims as Dr. Floyd Reynolds; Anupam Kher as Dr. Vijay Kapoor; Alejandro Hernandez as Casey; Lisa O'Hare as Georgia Goodwin; Stacey Raymond as EMT Whitaker; Freema Agyeman as Dr. Helen Sharpe; Tyler Labine as Dr. Iggy Frome