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'New Amsterdam' Needs a Lot of Medicine If It's Going to Survive
September 25, 2018  | By David Hinckley
 

NBC’s doctor show, New Amsterdam, combines medicine with fantasy, which might sound like a winning combination these days except that’s probably not what the network was trying to do.

New Amsterdam, which premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET, drops a no-nonsense new medical director, Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold, top), into a famous New York hospital that has become bogged down in bureaucracy and complacency.

Dr. Goodwin wants to change all this stat and to do so he has been given powers that President Trump could only dream about. When he looks at the cardiology department records and decides the doctors there have been more interested in billable hours than in the best courses for their patients, he fires them all, right in the middle of his get-acquainted staff meeting.

Now that’s draining the swamp, except, whoops, it turns out one of the doctors was really good and did try to tailor his treatments to individual patient needs. So an hour later Dr. Goodwin rehires him and makes him head of cardiology, with instructions to go out and hire a whole new department of the best cardiologists available.

That could be an interesting pitch: “Come work for me. We’ve got lots of openings because our new medical director just fired all the doctors who used to have this job.”

At the same get-acquainted meeting, another doctor who wasn’t fired suggests that the hospital start providing good food. Done, says Dr. Goodwin, and within hours the lobby becomes a regular farmers’ market, tables overflowing with beautiful fresh produce.

Presumably bedridden patients don’t have to crawl to the lobby to get their portions. Dr. Goodwin is too thoughtful a guy to make them do that.

With his trigger finger on the pink slips, Dr. Goodwin naturally is treated with some caution by most of the surviving staff, from brain surgeons to nurses and the custodial help.

But he finds one person he sort of seems to trust, Dr. Laura Bloom (Janet Montgomery). She’s also sort of dating Dr. Floyd Pearson (Jocko Sims), the cardiologist that Dr. Goodwin fired and rehired in the same breath.

Small world.

Dr. Goodwin seems less fond of Dr. Hana Sharpe (Freema Agyeman, left), a brilliant surgeon who seems to spend much of her time at conferences and on lecture tours. She argues that this promotion actually makes her more valuable to New Amsterdam than she would be if she were simply performing surgeries since hospitals have to market and sell themselves.

The previous administration agreed. Dr. Goodwin does not, so Dr. Sharp becomes one of the first tests of whether he really does have unlimited power in addition to an admirable understanding of “farm to table.”

Since New Amsterdam is a medical drama, of course, we will also presumably see several urgent, tense, and difficult cases tackled each week and mostly resolved.

But we can see that on a dozen other shows. New Amsterdam is selling the Dr. Goodwin character, the magic man who can sweep away bureaucracy and make this hospital a place of sensitivity, efficiency, and caring with one wave of his newly hired hand.

It’s an appealing fantasy. Wouldn’t we all like that to happen or to have happened in our workplaces? Sweep away all those pesky obstacles like budget and bureaucracy and contracts and scheduled obligations. Imagine just waving a hand and presto, making all The Right Things happen.

Too bad it doesn’t work that way. And too bad for New Amsterdam that we know it.

 
 
 
 
 
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