Thursday, March 6, 2008

Immortal Not So Beloved

"Old New York
Was once New Amsterdam
Why'd they change it?
I can't say.
People just like it better that way." -- "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" by Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon.

"New Amsterdam" (pilot)

Ah, to be immortal. Just think of it: no dying, perpetual youthful looks, long-term investment opportunities. Did I mention the no dying? Is it any wonder that John Amsterdam views his immortality as a curse?

He's the lead character on a new television series, so of course he does.

Fox's "New Amsterdam" tells the tale of a Dutch soldier from back in the day. WAY back in the day. So far back that there were such things as Dutch soldiers. In 1642, John rescues a native woman from one of his fellow Dutch soldiers and is rewarded with the gift/curse of immortality.

Oh, but it doesn't stop there. She also adds the caveat that if he ever finds "The One," the woman whose soul will be inextricably joined to his, he will finally start to age and eventually die.

It's enough to make a guy go gay.

As series-starting rigamarole goes, this is a little dopier than most. Why exactly does the Indian woman do this? Why the wacky stipulation? Why the blowing smoke in John's face?

Cut to the present day and John has used his 366 years of experience to land a job as a homicide detective in New York City, probably because he knows it's the best way to get on TV. If you're wondering whether or not he'll be teamed with a sexy, reluctant gal partner, you are not watching enough of your televisual device.

John is played by Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. I know you, dear reader, can't hear me right now, but I am currently pronouncing his name wrong. He has a certain vacant charm that, for all I know, is entirely appropriate for persons nearing their 400th birthday.

His inevitable reluctant, sexy partner is Eva, played by Zuleikha Robinson (What is it with the names on this show? I mean, come on. "Robinson?") who normal people may remember from her stint on "Rome" recently, but who I will always think of as Yves on the late, lamented "Lone Gunmen." She's a capable actress, but the pilot shoehorned her into such a tired TV cliche of a role, it's hard to tell if she's doing anything or not.

And then there's Omar (Stephen Henderson), John's confidant and the only one who knows John's secret.

Or is he? All through the pilot, John makes references to the fact that he's been around a lot longer than everybody else has. If he's trying to keep the whole immortality thing hushed up, he's doing a lousy job of it. If it's out in the open, who cares if Omar knows? And why haven't the Feds or the drug companies cut him open to figure out what keeps him ticking? Unless it's a secret, which he's doing a lousy job of keeping.

Sigh. It's a little frustrating when you put in more time thinking a premise through than the show's creators and producers did. And one of those producers (and the director of the pilot) is Lasse Hallstrom, two-time Best Director Oscar nominee for The Cider House Rules and My Life As a Dog. He really has no excuse.

This immortal is mortally flawed.

1 1/2 stars.

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