New Amsterdam

Since I tend to love shows cancelled by Fox, I had to check out New Amsterdam, which I vaguely remember being advertised. It’s about a cop with unique knowledge due the fact that he’s been alive a long time… like, a supernaturally long time. If John Doe and Journeyman didn’t last, what made them think this would?

From the get-go the city is a character. We open with a noir-ish voiceover by the main character, John (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) describing New York and all that he’s seen happen in it over the years. It’s reminiscent of Angel describing Los Angeles at the beginning of that pilot.

The show sets up a juxtaposition of romance and violence that could become a theme. While John tangos with, and then makes love with, a woman we don’t really meet, flashbacks of a battle scene are interspersed. In the battle, which appears to be set in colonial America*, John is run through with a sword while defending a Native American woman.

Once we have a feel for the character and his story, we learn what he’s doing in the present day. Naturally, he’s a cop. What supernatural being residing in a major metropolitan area wouldn’t spend his days fighting crime? And, naturally, he’s got a mismatched partner of the opposite sex, as TV cops tend to have. She tells us her name twice in the space of a minute: Eva Marquez (Zuleikha Robinson). Perhaps we’re supposed to hate her. We do.

As the odd couple is investigating a crime scene, John takes off after a suspect, chasing him into a subway station. John is doing this whole smooth cop thing, disarming the suspect with his fearlessness, when a certain woman steps off the train. John collapses to the ground for no visible reason, and is rushed to the hospital where the doctors try in vain to revive him. To the resounding ER chants of “clear!” we see a parallel memory of John lying among a group of Native Americans. The oxygen mask in the present is contrasted with the burning sage from the past. The Native American woman who he defended earlier explains that John will never die until he finds “the one” and their souls are wed. In the present, John dies, has his toe tagged, and then wakes up and walks out of the morgue. We surmise this has happened before.

John has a confidante, Omar (Stephen Henderson) who is in on this story. He’s a wise, old, African American bartender… can we have a bigger cliché, please? With everyone else, we assume John’s immortality is a secret, although he is pretty loose with the clues. He casually mentions 609 ex-girlfriends, or five-thousand-some-odd days sober. Apparently he doesn’t care whether anyone knows, either because they wouldn’t believe him anyway, or there is nothing anyone can do to hurt him.

John and Eva (god, she’s a bitch) continue working their case, seeking the killer of a celebutante named Chloe. This mystery-of-the-week is pretty standard, existing to let us, or the network execs, know what to expect in the coming season. John drops bombshells of personal information at the right moments, like when he tells the victim’s mother, “He was six, my son.”

The twist that sets the show apart from other cop dramas is, of course, John’s extensive knowledge of New York. He has a lot of contacts, having been around a while. There is a creepy encounter with an ex-girlfriend, now pushing 90, who holds a clue to the case.

In the meantime, a doctor from the hospital where John died—the woman from the subway—is curious where her corpse got to. She’s doing her own little investigation. Sooner or later the two are bound to meet, and perhaps that will lift the spell. The question is, does the viewer want to slog through cheesy weekly cases to get there?

Some behind the scenes information and interviews can be found here.

*According to the show’s description this scene is set in 1642, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that.


Some pilots don’t have to work very hard. Even if you don’t know that Haven, a new show on SyFy, is based on a book by Stephen King, you’ll likely figure it out pretty fast. A lone cop is sent to a small Maine town filled with colorful characters where something of a vaguely sinister super-nature is going on. Other things we already know: FBI agents and local police officers don’t get along. Female cops work super hard and don’t have time for dating. People who live on boats are odd.

So, putting all of those givens into place, let’s get to know Agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose). A quick couple of aerial shots show us she lives in a big city. Her boss shows up with an assignment, pausing to comment on a teen vampire novel on her table. “FBI is nonfiction work,” he pontificates. Huh?

Agent Parker gets to Haven, a small harbor town with exceedingly strange weather. You know when a town on TV has a quaint, cozy-sounding name like Haven, bad things are going to happen there. (Point Pleasant, Wisteria Lane.)  She’s driving along when a chasm opens in the road in front of her, forcing her through a guardrail. We never get an explanation for that. It’s funny though, when her car is hanging half-way off a cliff, that she takes the time to turn off the radio so she doesn’t have to die to an annoying 70s song. Her first confrontation with local cop—and soon-to-be love interest, no doubt—is likewise pretty amusing.

The show succeeds with witty dialogue more so than in other areas. There are some truly funny moments. The banter between the cop, Nathan, and Audrey is delivered with the requisite cynicism. The jokes kind of pop up out of nowhere, making them the one element of the unexpected in a show that is supposed to be suspenseful.

The reason Audrey is in Haven is forgettable in light of everything that ends up happening, but she’s supposed to locate an escaped convict. The problem is, he’s already dead. Like a good television FBI agent in heels, she doesn’t let that deter her. She starts nosing around the town, meeting its various denizens.

The stand-out for creep of the year is a handyman named Conrad with “personal space issues.” Whenever this guy gets pissed off there’s bad weather. You would think every school kid in town would be vandalizing his house hoping for a snow day. Spoiler alter. It turns out, though, that it’s not really him that’s affecting the weather. It’s the pretty antique store owner who he hangs around. Audrey wraps this one up nice and neat, so possibly each episode will revolve around a different resident with a bizarre power.

The A plot is that Audrey is an orphan (paging Temperance Brennan) and there is an old photo in the town newspaper of a woman that looks just like her. A quick scene of Audrey’s boss at the FBI having a cryptic phone conversation reveals that she was sent to Haven for a reason we’ve yet to discover.

This pilot is so pilot-y it’s just boring. It could have had a later point of attack and possibly been much more interesting. I for one, probably won’t continue watching to see what becomes of Audrey.