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 V.17 No.11 | March 13 - 19, 2008 

Idiot Box

“New Amsterdam” on FOX

After 400 years, his pension must be awesome

John Amsterdam, the main character of FOX’s offbeat new crime series, is a 17th-century Dutch soldier cursed (or is it blessed?) to live forever, or at least until he meets his one true love. It sounds like an unusual premise for a show, but one of the sneakier strengths of “New Amsterdam” is that it’s really rather familiar.

For all its weighty backstory (in 1642, John saved an Indian maiden and was granted his mystical immortality), “New Amsterdam” is really just a straightforward detective series. John (little-known mouthful Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is now a seasoned New York City homicide detective teamed up with a hotheaded young partner (Zuleikha Robinson). It’s your standard old cop/young cop deal. The only difference is there’s a 400-year gap separating the two in this version. John’s long history with the city does come in handy during his investigations, of course. He knows every building, every street, every dingy back alley and can recite the entire history of each.

The look of the show, established early by executive producer and pilot director Lasse Hallström (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat), is surprisingly dark and serious. Filmed in a glossy black-and-blue color scheme, New York looks old and foreboding. All “New Amsterdam” needs to do is figure out how to capitalize on this gloomy, post-Gothic style.

Stealing a lot from the “Highlander” TV series and a bit from supernatural detective series “Forever Knight” and “Angel,” the show offers plenty of mysterious elements but never really commits to the fantastical. Aside from the occasional flashback and endless jokes about his age and experience, our boy John slogs along like any other New York gumshoe--right down to the standard-issue hard-boiled narration. (“Life was cheap in New Amsterdam,” offers John. “Still is.”) The show picked up significant steam between the first and second episodes, and there’s an indication that more of John’s lengthy past will be explored in future episodes. Still, a full-on exploration of New York’s history and a bit more magic might be in order.

Coster-Waldau is a good-looking chap and projects as much gravitas as he can. He looks more like a Diesel Jeans model than a guy with 400 years of experience under his belt, but it seems like he’ll grow into the show. That’s the general feel of all involved--the cast, the writers, the producers. Given time, there’s every reason to believe “New Amsterdam” will develop into an intriguing and original crime/fantasy/romance series. Here’s hoping FOX gives it the time and that viewers give it the attention.

“New Amsterdam” airs every Thursday night at 8 p.m. on KASA-2.


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