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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What’s the Best New Show on TV This Fall?

October 24, 2007

The Fall TV Season is well under way and November sweeps are just around the corner.  But how did all the new offerings this season fair up?  Here’s my look at the best new shows.

A friend of mine commented that nothing really wowed him this season like Heroes did last year and Lost a few years before.  I disagreed with him.  However, I found that the shows that did wow me were a different kind of show than either Heroes or Lost.  In fact, humor is what impressed me this year. 

Without further ado, here are my Top 5 new shows:

1.  Reaper
In this show, the devil once said, “Life’s too short to drink domestic.”  I say life’s to short not to watch Reaper.  My favorite show of the season, Reaper, has some of the best one liners on TV and they are delivered by none other than the devil himself.  Ray Wise steals every scene he’s in as the boss that won’t let Sam out of his contract, but wants to help him be successful in his role as the devil’s bounty hunter.  While Wise might not be a kinder, gentler devil, he’s definitely a friendlier, funnier devil.

But Wise isn’t the only star of the show.  Sam and his two slacker friends — Socks and Ben — will keep you rolling with their attempts to catch escaped souls using vessels given to them by the devil that include a dirt devil hand vac, a remote control car and a Christmas sweater among other things.  There’s also Sam’s super caring parents — you know the ones that sold his soul to the devil when his dad was dying (or at least that’s what they are telling Sam, but what aren’t they telling him?). 

Of course, there are also girls involved.  Missy Peregrym (Candice from Heroes) stars as Andi, Sam’s dream girl that he can’t quite pair up with.  Valerie Rae Miller (Original Cindy from Dark Angel) rounds out the cast as Socks’ ex and the only one of the friends with real career aspirations.

Maybe this show holds as special place in my heart because Sam’s antics at The Workbench (minus his devil duties) remind me of stories my husband has told me about his days in college working at a home improvement store with his pals. 

Reaper airs on CW on Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

2.  Chuck
Brought to us by O.C. creator Josh Schwartz, this comedy is for the geek in all of us and a perfect lead in to the more serious Heroes.  Lowly Nerd Herd employee Chuck is sent an encrypted file containing all the NSA and CSI secrets by his nemesis and former college roommate, Bryce Larkin.  A rogue spy, Bryce destroyed the computer containing the secrets, leaving the information in Chuck’s head the sole source of these government secrets.  Enter Sarah and Casey (Adam Baldwin), CIA and NSA agents respectively sent to keep Chuck, or rather the information in Chuck’s head, safe until a new computer can be brought online.

Hilarity ensues when a particular image triggers the decrypting of a secret and sends Chuck and his handlers on a mission.  For me Adam Baldwin (Jayne from Firefly) steals the show as the gung ho NSA agent sent to eliminate Chuck but is now babysitting the geek while keeping a distrustful eye on his CIA counterpart.  And I’m particularly looking forward to Rachel Bilson guest staring later this season as a potential love interest for Chuck.

Chuck airs on NBC on Mondays at 8 p.m.

3.  Torchwood
Since the airing of this British series is a season behind on the Sci Fi Channel, I know that Torchwood has already been picked up for a second season.  But I couldn’t help but include it on this list for two reasons — 1.  I like this show and 2.  I wanted to include a cable show after all the great hits (Burn Notice, Mad Men and Army Wives) we got from cable this summer.

A spin-off from Doctor Who, Torchwood is even better than its parent.  The adventures of the immortal Captain Jack Hartness and his crew as they chase down aliens and alien technology as part of the secret British agency Torchwood are fun, exciting and captivating.

Torchwood airs on BBC America on Saturdays at 9 p.m.

4.  Bionic Woman
Will Bionic Woman be the next Battlestar Galactia, a TV remake bigger than its original?  I don’t know, but I think it definitely fills the gap left in BSG’s absence as BSG prepares for its final season.  In fact, I like Katee Sackhoff better as Sarah Corvus than as Starbuck in BSG.   Michelle Ryan impressed me in BBC’s Jekyll this summer so I’m glad to have her show up in another show this fall. 

It’s nice to have an action show on with a strong female lead.  It kind of reminds me of Dark Angel with bionics instead of bar codes.  I’m looking forward to more of Jamie’s adventures and to learning more about just what Will was up to before his demise. 

Bionic Woman airs on NBC on Wednesdays at 9 p.m.

5.  The Big Bang Theory
This sitcom about two science geeks with lots of book smarts, but not much street smarts and their hot, blonde (insert joke here) neighbor is worth a second look.  It’s a nice pairing with my other favorite sitcom, How I Met Your Mother.  The one liners alone in this half-hour show keep me in stitches.

The Big Bang Theories airs on Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.

While these five top my list as the best new shows of the fall season, there are a few more that I haven’t quite made up my mind about.  I think I’ll need a few more weeks with these shows to find out if they are keepers.

Pushing Daisies
While this new drama as already won critical acclaim and a request for a full season of scripts, the jury is still out for me, who is exactly 35 years, 9 months, 15 days, 10 hours and 2 minutes old at this moment.  I am charmed by the Dr. Seuss-like narration and the Pleasantville scenes.  The vibrant colors are visually stimulating.  But I’m wondering if all this charm and sweetness is going to keep me (and audiences) interested.  Right now I like the quirkiness, but will I be annoyed by it after 10 or so episodes?

Pushing Daisies airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Dirty Sexy Money
Right now the Darlings are intriguing.  Everyone likes to look into the life of the rich and famous.  And finding out that their lives are just as screwed up is not only a relief, its fun to watch.  Just ask the tabloids, they sell millions on those stories.  But how long before I tire of watching the rich and spoiled overindulge?  I have hope, but only time will tell.

Dirty Sexy Money airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Life
Do we really need another cop/detective/crime fighting show?  Probably not.  But the story of Charlie Crews still intrigues me.  A cop wrongly accused of killing his best friend and his family is released from prison after 12 years when the case is overturned.  The Zen-spewing detective with a passion for fruit and ladies goes back to work on the force while secretly working to discover who really killed his friends.  Will the mystery be enough to hold our attention? 

Life airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Journeyman
Quantum Leap this show is not.  But the idea that Dan Vassar just suddenly leaving his current life, really at no will of his own, to travel to the past to set some wrong right is intriguing.  Add the fact that the fiancee he thought dead apparently also travels in time and it’s quite a mystery.  But will the audience stick around to find out why?

Journeyman airs on Monday at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Now that you’ve heard my thoughts, tell me what is your favorite new show of the season and why.


My Top 15 Cult Shows

July 3, 2007

On Friday, TVguide.com released an updated list of its Top 30 Cult Shows ever.  In honor of the list, I’ve compiled my own Top 15 cult shows — these are the top cult shows that I’ve personally flipped out for.

I didn’t feel like I could include LostHeroes or Bones on this list because they seemed too mainstream for me. 

Here’s my Top 15 list:

15. Star Trek — I grew up on the original series.  Scotty was always my favorite character.  I’ve seen all the subsequent series and all the movies. 

14.  Torchwood — Who doesn’t love Captain Jack Harkness?  I was so happy when they gave him his own series.

13.  Doctor Who — I don’t remember the older versions of this franchise, but the latest rendition is absolutely great.

12.  Psych — Dule Hill and James Roday keep me in stitches with their fake psychic business and buddy friendship.

11.  Monk — The escapades of USA’s favorite obsessive-compulsive detective are enough to make anyone feel normal by comparison.

10. Quantum Leap — I had a little crush on Scott Bakula and wouldn’t miss an episode of his time traveling adventures.

9.  Friday Night Lights — You don’t have to love football to fall for the witty dialogue and great stories in this drama.

8.  How I Met Your Mother — One word.  Barney.  He makes this show.

7.  Eureka — You’ve just got to love this quirky little town of the brightest minds.

6.  Battlestar Galactica — I barely remember the original, but the current version has me on the edge of my seat.

5.  X-Files — My husband introduced this series to me when we were dating.  We spent many Friday nights during our courtship curled up on the couch watch Scully and Mulder unravel a case.  For that reason, this series will always have a special place in my heart. 

4.  Firefly — Joss Whedon has me begging for more exploits of Mal and the crew of the Serenity.  A single season of this space cowboy adventure was not enough.  Thank goodness for the movie and the comics. 

3.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer — Joss Whedon’s original television series kept me hooked all seven seasons and further if you count the comics.   I loved to tune in each week to watch Buffy and the Scooby Gang save the world.

2.  Angel — David Boreanaz is very easy on the eyes.  I loved to watch the brooding vampire with a soul team up with Cordelia, Wes, Gunn and others to save the innocent.  I even have the puppet Angel from “Smile Time.”

1.  Supernatural — Currently my favorite show, I love to watch the good-looking brothers Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padelecki) battle urban legends and things that go bump in the night while driving the beautiful 1967 black Chevy Impala. 

So now it’s your turn.  What’s on your list?