If New Amsterdam—NBC’s new series, the [checks notes] gazillionth medical drama to debut on network TV in the last two decades—had a catchphrase, it’d be what lead protagonist Dr. Max Goodwin (played by Ryan Eggold) repeatedly asks whenever a subordinates approaches him at the hospital: “How can I help?”
The fact that Dr. Goodwin, the new medical director of a hospital explicitly inspired by New York’s Bellevue Hospital, is constantly asking this is meant to evince optimism. Hey guys, here’s a doctor who really cares! Maybe he can fix the American health care system! But unfortunately it’s not that simple: Everything about New Amsterdam is confusion, including why it even exists. Obviously, NBC wanted its own version of ABC’s The Good Doctor, but what it made is somehow more incoherent and unrealistic than the show about an autistic surgeon who once performed a liver transplant in the middle of a Los Angeles freeway. (At least New Amsterdam has a killer farmers market for people to eat at. We’ll get to that later.)
The best way to parse through New Amsterdam’s confounding narrative is listing the many questions I had while watching this show—an experience I hope to never endure again. So with that in mind, here are 24 of my most pressing concerns after seeing two episodes of New Amsterdam.
1. Before we kick things off, why did the show decide to name the Not-Bellevue hospital New Amsterdam? Is this a “clever” reference to the fact that New York City used to be called New Amsterdam? Were my quotes around the word clever sarcastic enough?
2. So this is Dr. Goodwin on the first day at his enviable new job and—wait, did he just swipe some random scrubs?
You’re the medical director of the hospital; I think you can politely ask for some and they will provide them!
3. Would it be possible to have a character provide an explicit exposition dump about New Amsterdam hospital to Dr. Goodwin, despite the fact that he accepted one of the highest medical positions in the entire building and definitely already knows the hospital’s history?
Awesome, thank you. The entire audience thanks you.
4. In the premiere episode, Dr. Goodwin calls for a staff meeting to introduce himself to all the doctors. His spiel includes a heartbreaking story about how his sister died at New Amsterdam from a hospital-acquired infection; he’s hoping to change things around here so incidents like that don’t happen again.
That is a commendable gesture, and I’m sure he’ll go about solving the hospital’s issues in a fair and—
ONE HOUR ON THE JOB AND HE FIRED THE ENTIRE CARDIAC SURGERY DEPARTMENT? WHAT THE HELL?
5. “Any department who places billing above care, no matter how much money you make at this hospital, will be terminated,” he says as the cardiac crew exits the room. I get it! He’s a very good doctor—to the point that the words “good” and “win” are in his surname—and he wants to help people. But isn’t laying off an entire division of doctors within moments of stepping into a new role a bit … rash?
6. And what happens if a patient needs open-heart surgery today? Will the nurse have to break it to them: “We’re very sorry, but our new boss just fired everyone. Rain check?”
7. “We all feel like the system is too big to change, but guess what?” Dr. Goodwin tells the staff members who weren’t abruptly fired. “We are the system, and we need to change.” My guy, wouldn’t it be easier to do that by giving some constructive criticism rather than, ya know, firing everyone?
8. Wait … what? Were the doctors not doctoring before he got there? (Also, you can’t hear it, but that “spirited music” was spirited as hell, man.)
9. When Dr. Goodwin asks the remaining staff how he can help—again: he says this a lot—one doctor requests the removal of the waiting room, and another says he wants healthy food options for the hospital. These requests are coming from a good place, but they seem like they’d need, say, board approval and time to take effect. Goodwin just says “Done!” and moves on.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but can we dive into the logistics of how the hell any of this is going to happen? Changing a hospital’s catering options is literally a multimillion-dollar decision. I want some details on how this hospital operates!
10. Is the protagonist of a medical drama legally required to be a doctor who doesn’t play by the rules? We’ve had some memorable ones in the past, like the legend Gregory House, but New Amsterdam is the first show I can think of where just … being a doctor who wants to help patients is considered rebellious.
In defter hands, this would be a treatise of the American health care system, but in New Amsterdam, it’s just a single doctor running around a hospital saying he’s going to fix everything, which somehow magically fixes everything.
11. Is there a romantic subplot between two doctors, thereby ensuring a will-they-won’t-they story line that will persist for the majority of the season?
Thank goodness—wouldn’t be a medical show without one of those!
12. It took only half an hour, but I found a convincing case for removing the waiting room.
Why wasn’t anybody concerned enough that this person on the verge of collapsing needed immediate medical attention? I should stress that this person was waiting for a long time, as the show kept cutting back to him sweating profusely. Jeez, maybe Dr. Goodwin really is The (Good) Doctor Who Was Promised.
13. Unfortunately, this extremely sick person most likely contracted Ebola in Liberia. (Side-question: Were they doing direct flights to New York in the middle of a viral outbreak?) Ebola is highly contagious, so it would probably be wise for the doctors to proceed with the utmost caution. Does that happen?
Of course not. Even disregarding the broken glove, this doctor was supposed to have a full hazmat suit to cover her head, as well as thick gloves. These people are so focused on Doctoring Super Hard that they’re putting their own lives at risk. That seems unwise!
(Because New Amsterdam can’t go killing off main characters within the first hour, it turns out the patient did not, in fact, have Ebola, but instead something more treatable. Crisis averted; unreasonably stupid and unsafe doctor vindicated once again.)
14. You know what New Amsterdam needs to end its premiere? A sullen, moody song used and beaten to death by thousands of shows before it.
Ah, that’s the good stuff.
15. By the way, here is the hospital’s solution for healthy food: a farmers market in the lobby!
By the way: The events of New Amsterdam’s premiere occurred over the course of one day. That means, in fewer than 24 hours, the hospital got rid of its waiting rooms and installed a farmers market like it was no big deal. The New Amsterdam hospital is like Canada, times a million.
16. Oh, sorry, New Amsterdam’s first episode needs one more revelation:
WHAT THE HELL? DR. GOODWIN HAS CANCER AS WELL?
17. Are we sure New Amsterdam isn’t some kind of medical-themed reverie of a dying doctor with cancer? This must be the only explanation because I’m sorry, but I still can’t process how the hospital just up and created a farmers market within hours of a doctor requesting for it. Where did they find that much fresh produce? This place simply cannot be real.
18. OK, it’s now the second episode. Does Dr. Goodwin have some good dad jokes in him?
Hell yeah he does.
19. We get a brief montage of Dr. Goodwin helping people out across the hospital, and I want to single out one scene of him explaining to a group of janitors—in Spanish—why their jobs are so essential. Did New Amsterdam not consider the optics here?
It’s bad enough that the show implies every janitor at the hospital is Latino to the point that an entire speech could be given in Spanish—I should also stress that there isn’t a single Latino doctor on this show—but Dr. Goodwin is also being framed as the hospital’s white savior. It’s not a good look!
20. Relatedly, is Dr. Goodwin omnipotent? The dude seems capable of doing anything. He constantly shows up in different, far apart places in the hospital in a manner of minutes; this is explained in a throwaway line about him having “running shoes.” It’s good that the head doctor is proactive enough to want to help out everybody, including the janitors, but it seems unlikely he could help everyone in a giant building. This is strange, and the show should treat it as such.
21. So, uh, this happened.
Should this be allowed at a hospital? It seems like a giant health hazard, even if the intentions are sound. I’m all for New Amsterdam’s doctors no longer playing by the rules of the oppressive health care system, but proper presurgery hygiene … ought to remain as is.
22. Speaking of: Can you massage a heart back to life? I’m no heart expert, but if you can’t jolt the heart back with a tiny defibrillator—which they just tried several times—it’s hard to imagine that a slow massage from a surgeon could do the trick.
23. A quick background on Dr. Goodwin’s wife, Georgia (played by Lisa O’Hare), who is pregnant: She quit her job so the couple could focus on their family, but, immediately afterward, her husband got offered the job at New Amsterdam. (He equated the position to getting an offer to climb Mount Everest, and said he had to accept, which is wild: How many people would willingly climb Mount Everest? People die up there all the time!) Should Georgia be pissed at her husband? Absofuckinglutely.
Anyway, Georgia’s having complications with her pregnancy—and any amount of unnecessary stress dropped on her could risk her health and their baby’s. Because of this, Dr. Goodwin hasn’t told his wife he has (potentially terminal) cancer. Is the show just going to dangle this thread for the entire season? Probably, and that’s going to be so aggravating.
24. And that, dear readers, was the first two episodes of New Amsterdam. Given the show’s general vibe—rebellious doctors do the most rebellious thing imaginable and save patients, gasp!—and central focus on a doctor who is good, there is only one question worth knowing: How does New Amsterdam and its goodness compare with The Good Doctor?
Unfortunately, I’m going to have to go with The Good Doctor > New Amsterdam Gin > New Amsterdam the Show. More to the point, both of these shows pale in comparison with the the best procedural on network TV, Fox’s emergency-responder drama 9-1-1. I highly recommend watching it instead of New Amsterdam. It’s just as unrealistic, but infinitely more entertaining.