Television that Home Video Forgot: New Amsterdam (2008)
Created by Allan Loeb and Christian Taylor
Produced by Sarabande Productions, Scarlet Fire Productions, Regency Television, FOX Television Studios
Aired on FOX for 1 season (8 episodes) from March 4 – April 14, 2008
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as John Amsterdam
Zuleikha Robinson as Eva Marquez
Alexie Gilmore as Dr. Sarah Millay Dillane
Stephen Henderson as Omar York
Susan Misner as Detective Sergeant Callie Burnett
John Amsterdam has been around for a long time…a very long time. He’s an immortal man who was blessed with the gift after saving a Native American woman during his tenure as a Dutch soldier in the year 1624. The prophecy of the spell foretold that he would be immortal until the day he meets his one true love, who will make him whole again and ready for mortality. In modern day, Amsterdam passes the time as an NYPD detective, using his centuries of knowledge to solve cases.
The series begins as he meets a new partner, Eva Marquez. Unlike many of his former partners, she is up to the task of working with a talented yet hard to handle rogue cop. While in pursuit of a perp, Amsterdam is shot down and wounded to the point of death, but once he is awakened again, he senses that he has been in the presence of his one true love, and so seeks her out. The show is part procedural, part character study, and part history lesson on the ever changing city of New York.
FOX Network had picked up New Amsterdam for a 13 episode season with a Fall 2007 premiere that would’ve paired it with successful hospital procedural House, MD. However, the producers at the network changed their minds due to creative differences with the show’s creative team of Allan Loeb and Christian Taylor, as well as the all-encompassing battle with writers in general during the Writers Strike of 2007-2008. The problems in production caused FOX to delay the premiere during the mid-season, and halt production after eight episodes had completed. The series premiered in March to mixed reviews that did not bode well. FOX cancelled the show after the ratings dropped to less than half of its pilot episode.
New Amsterdam had a very interesting premise, one that had a lot of promise that it barely scratched the surface of in its initial run. It had a strong lead in Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and he’s very capable of performing the task of an immortal that has changed along with the times, as presented in flashbacks. It’s a premise that is fitting for an actor who wants to show range and variety. This series was created sometime after Lost, and it picked up some of the episodic structure of that series, presented in a very unique and focused way. The use of flashbacks revealed mythology of the character of John Amsterdam, which was compelling, and it was paralleled against the modern day narrative, which varied from procedural to serialized plot. The show was structured very intricately, and demanded the audience’s attention in a way similar to Lost, but perhaps the returns were not as rewarding for some viewers. Had the series continued, surely the balance would’ve been better made, as what the series was doing with its narrative was fairly new.
At the center of this series is that fantastical element that John Amsterdam is immortal, which is not necessarily a new concept, yet it is one that has not been as exploited as one might thinks. Immortality is often made in connection with Vampires, but in New Amsterdam’s case, it is a gift given to him by a Native American woman as a reward for saving her life. It’s romanticized with the idea of the ‘One True Love’, as he needs to find her in order to become mortal again. Although this idea isn’t bad, it still relies heavily on the chemistry between John Amsterdam and his one true love. One of the negative marks against the show is the failed chemistry between Coster-Waldau and Alexie Gilmore, as it brings the audience to think ‘Her?’, which is not the best thing for the central relationship. The counter to this is his partner in procedural solving, with whom John has better chemistry, without the sexual tension. John Amsterdam is partnered with Eva Marquez (Zuleikha Robinson) who, despite not getting a whole lot of screen time due to far too few episodes, makes a strong impression with the lead.
The series is mainly episodic, with serialized elements that were barely hinted at due to the short run, but it is clear that the creators had an understanding of the history of the character. Each episode functioned three-fold; the modern day narrative of the possibility that he has found his true love in Dr. Sara Dillane (Alexie Gilmore), the flashbacks, which function mostly to give depth to the character, and lastly the procedural case of the week, which tied into both the modern day story and the flashback.
Where the season leaves off isn’t on a cliffhanger or anything, yet it is still not satisfying, as this show was still finding out how to best tell these stories, so where things are left off feels like the beginning of more interesting stuff that is yet to come.
The reason why this series failed isn’t because of poor quality or lack of creativity; in fact, it had plenty of interesting aspects that could’ve made this series truly remarkable. The problem lies in the lack of faith from the network, as this show really needed much more time to develop and find its audience. This show is one that should be paid attention to and learned from, as the concepts on how to structure an episode and a season is very unique.
Allan Loeb went on to be a screenwriter on films such as The Dilemma, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and the upcoming San Andreas, starring Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino
Christian Taylor would continue to write for television, working on series such as MTV’s Teen Wolf and Star Wars: the Clone Wars. He also developed the recently premiered MTV series Eye Candy.
Nicholaj Coster-Waldau has continued his career in films and starred in a failed pilot called Virtuality before finding acclaim for his current role in HBO’s highly popular Game of Thrones.
Alexie Gilmore has appeared as a guest star on a variety of TV series, from House, MD to CSI to Nurse Jackie. Most recently, she had a recurring role on TNT drama series Legends.
Zuleikah Robinson went on to recur on Lost, and had roles in Homeland, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and most recently on ABC’s Intelligence.
Unfortunately this series is currently unavailable on any streaming service or any home video media.