Will ‘New Amsterdam’ Find Success with Immortality?

March 5, 2008

Fox is relying on America’s fascination with immortality to make New Amsterdam a hit, but will the new drama be lost in the sea of reality shows.

New AmsterdamIn the ‘80s I was introduced to Conner MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) and the concept of the immortal hero.  The movie spawned a 20+ year franchise that included a Highlander TV series.

(Just for the record, I’m sure other immortals in television and film existed before the ‘80s, but I’m going to claim that I’m too young to remember them as an excuse for not including them.)

A decade after Highlander hit the big screen, I started watching a show about another immortal – one who had a questionable past.  Cursed with a soul by gypsies, the vampire known as Angel (David Boreanaz) patrolled the streets of first Sunnydale, then Los Angeles helping people in an effort to make reparations for all the evil he’d done.

And now, before adding New Amsterdam to the list, I am watching two more shows with leads that cannot die – Moonlight and TorchwoodMoonlight is about another vampire that doubles as a detective while Torchwood features Dr. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), a time traveler from the future who is unable to die after an adventure with The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston/David Tennant of Doctor Who).

After watching the premiere of New Amsterdam last night I think the drama has potential.  After all it has all the ingredients for a successful immortal.

Immortality Brought on My Death

Like others before him, John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) had died and lived to tell about it.  In fact in the pilot, John dies twice – once in the flashback where he received his immortality from an Indian shaman (Carla Rae Holland) and once in the opening sequence (I won’t spoil the why here).

Of course, both Angel and Nick St. John (Alex O’Laughlin) died to become vampires.  Captain Jack was brought back to life when Rose (Billie Piper) saved him from The Bad Wolf.  And Conner found out about his immortality after being mortally wounded in battle.

A Quest

John’s quest is unlike like other immortals, but it’s a quest nonetheless.  Angel seeks to redeem himself.  Nick is search for a cure.  Conner battled for The Prize and Jack is trying to save Earth.  But John’s quest is more personal.  He’s looking for love, not any love, but his one true love.  When he finds it, he can finally grow old.

A Hero complex

With immortality comes responsibility.  Conner fights evil immortals.  Jack protects the earth from aliens.  Angel and Nick are both private detectives.  And John partners with fellow cop Eva Marquez (Zuleikha Robinson) to fight crime, although he hasn’t always worked a cop.

Wear a Long Coat

The long coat must be part of the hero fashion statement, because all the immortals are wearing one, each for their own purpose.  Jack’s dates back to his World War I days.  Conner used it to hide his sword.  The long coat looks really cool flapping in the breeze like wings when Angel and Nick leap from tall buildings.  I’m not sure what John’s purpose for his coat is yet (a throwback from his past?), but I’m willing to stick around to find out.

Loners with a Confidant

Since immortals can outlive everyone they know, it’s no surprise that they are all loners.  But that doesn’t mean they are totally alone – they have confidants.  Jack has his Torchwood staff.  Nick has fellow vamp Josef (Jason Dohring).  Angel had Doyle (Glenn Quinn) and then Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter).  Conner had Juan Sanchz Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery).

John has Omar (Stephen Henderson).  We met the 65-year-old jazz club owner in the pilot.  He was in trouble with some bookies and John helps him out.  He returns the favor by keeping John’s secrets.  But maybe that’s not the only reason.  According to TV Guide, Omar is John’s son (one of many children his fathered over the years).

Achilles’ Heel

Immortality does come without some downsides.  Each of these immortals has a mortal weakness – something that can kill them immediately.  Conner must be beheaded to die.  Beheading, fire, sunlight and stakes are all lethal to Angel, while beheading, fire and extreme sunlight are the only things that can put an end to Nick’s life.  I don’t want to give away Jack’s secret, I’ll just say tune into Doctor Who’s third season.

But what can kill John?  Ironically, it’s the same thing that he searches for – true love.  Once his soul is wed to that of his one true love, he can grow old and die.

Women

Some might argue that women in and of themselves are man’s Achilles’ heel.  I’ll save that debate for another day.  But I did notice that all the immortals have their fair share of women around.

Conner had Heather (Beatie Edney).  Nick has Beth (Sophia Myles), the girl he loves, and Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon), the wife that turned him.  Angel has a couple ladies on his list – his sire Darla (Julie Benz), his true love Buffy (Sarah Michelle Geller) and Cordelia.  The unconventional Jack has a slew of people – both men and women – that he shares chemistry with including Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), Gwen (Eve Myles) and Captain John Hart (James Marsters).

Who keeps John company?  Over the years he’s had several wives, but as he told us in the pilot only one at a time.  Currently, in addition to his partner Eve, John has crossed paths with Dr. Sara Dillane (Alexie Gilmore).  Is she is one true love?  Only time will tell.

Living under the Radar

In order to avoid someone noticing that they are living forever, immortals must fly under the radar.  Angel lives in the shadows.  Nick pretends that he’s his own son.  And Conner moved around.  I have no idea how Jack has remained undetected.

John changes names and careers.  In the pilot, we heard at least two other names he used, one being Charlie and the other the name of an artist he once was.  The constant mystery of the person that he was should provide an intriguing backdrop for the show.  And the random why he throws out tidbits – that he knows no one will believe – suggesting his real age adds a touch of humor to the show.

Flashbacks in History

The great thing about living for hundreds of years is the unfolding history.  And a good show about immortals explores that history through flashbacks (or in Jack’s case flash forwards since he’s from the future).

New Amsterdam promises to follow in the footsteps of other shows about immortals giving us glimpses into John’s past lives.  In the pilot, we saw how John became immortal as a Dutch soldier in 1642.  The flashbacks are possibly the part I’m looking forward to the most.  I like the idea of peeking into someone’s past to learn more about them and I enjoy historical stories, so bring on the flashbacks.

Overall, I think that Fox has the makings of a hit on their hands.  But I’m worried that New Amsterdam will be lost among the reality show swamp the network has become.  So far the network is not doing the show any favors by moving the show around its schedule – it premiered on a Tuesday night, the next episode is on Thursday, followed by an episode on Monday.

If Fox can secure a decent place in the schedule for the show, New Amsterdam might live a long life – even if it’s not immortal.

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