New Amsterdam Review – s1e5 – “Keep the Change”

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Ok, folks. We’ve just finished episode 5 of a possible 8. Things are getting down to the crunch. See the end of this review if you are outraged and want to lobby to keep the show on the air. With that out of the way, time for love notes and spitballs.

LOVE NOTES – The Plots

The plot was terrific. By terrific I mean detailed and tightly woven. As ever – there’s the three stories going on – the Police Show, The Sitcom and The Soap Opera. This episode went gratefully easy on the laughs. The Sitcom label doesn’t really apply here and I’m tempted to rename it Historical Drama.

The Police Show plot was nicely done with lots of inter-connectivity of people, events and motives. That – to me – gives a sensation of tightness. There are no random walk-ons. Every speaking part is relevant. This is best illustrated with the British photographer. We first meet him and don’t see his connection but later he re-appears.

The Sitcom became the Historical Drama and that was a terrific improvement. Not only did they pick an accessible and cool time frame (1964) but also used this show to reveal one of the significant events in John’s recent life – that is his coming out to Omar (his son) as an immortal. The how and why this came about was really delicious and could have almost stood on its own.

LOVE NOTES – The Theme of “Confession”

Last week it was reincarnation, this week it was confession. The writer did wonders with the notion of confession. All three plots had confessions and some story lines, most notably the Police plot, had several. Naturally, a homicide plot has at least one confession – the Who Did It. Oddly, this was the most ambiguous of all the confessions and I liked that contrast.

Confessions were also a central mechanism for the Alcoholics Anonymous “setting” for the episode. For those unfamiliar with AA, Step 4 relates to the alcoholic doing a moral inventory of themselves and then “confessing” these to another for a kind of spiritual cleansing. Three of the guest characters plus John Amsterdam himself are recovering addicts and Step 4 is used to both reveal character and drive plot. It’s really sweet when items can serve more than one purpose … again … we get that sense of tightness.

LOVE NOTES – Oh what a tangled plot we edit …

One of the top three things I love about this show is how they edit the story lines with fast cuts to another story line where the connection is the theme. Mirroring is used extensively – similar but different stories unfold back to back. Each one seems to highlight details of the other. The varied length of the edits is wonderful, too. A short snappy clip followed by a mirrored scene that – at length – plays out a different part of the story. Each complements the other. It’s really quite wonderful.

LOVE NOTES – 1964 …

They passed on the flower children and focused on the Rat Pack. Thin ties, good suits, hair slicked back, and a jazz band. Cigarette in one hand and a neat drink in the other. The filming captured a coolness of the time that we have long since lost. Back then, when you were cool, you really were cool, sleek … one hep cat.

In the ’64 flashbacks, everyone has a smoke going. Seeing cigarettes on every hand, you realize how far we’ve come as a society. It’s shocking to see that habit in full swing. I can’t help but stop and stare … it’s illicit and wicked and very, very cool. I remember when Miami Vice came out I thought the same thing. Hey! These guys are smoking! Wow!

LOVE NOTES – Best Line of the Show to date

It takes a great deal to make me laugh out loud. It’s just the way I am. This episode had a line that actually made throw back my head and roar.

The set up … a homeless guy (drunk) walks into the Police Dept is assigned to Detective Santori who is an uber-stereotype cop and greatly annoyed at the pairing. They begin an exchange that becomes heated and escalates to this bit.

Santori: “You’re drunk!”

Homeless Guy: “And you smell of mangos!”

I nearly fell off the couch. That line … “and you smell of mangos” goes beyond its Pythonesque roots to a whole new level. The accusation is sophisticated and unexpected. You don’t normally consider homeless people to have an experience that makes mango scent part of their vocabulary. And moreover, that accusation made Santori – the Italian macho cop – sound overwhelmingly effeminate. Dowright metrosexual. No wonder he tased him.

SPITBALLS

Before I get going on the spitballs, an observation. This is episode five and already we’ve had four different writers / writing teams. For a show this new, I can’ t help but think that this has got to harm the overall vision and story arc. Plots – I think – stand on their own and don’t really require continuity. A 100 writers, a 100 plots. Should be ok with some basic Show Bible references.

But characters?

This show is creating characters by committee. Where’s the vision? Where’s the continuity? Where’s the “watch 10 episodes to get a flavour for what we’ve established” before going off half-cocked?

Because – frankly – there’s a lot of half-cocks going off.
SPITBALLS – Dillane is a Pain Part I … Google me softly

After some rousing boinking, Dillane pulls away dramatically from John. Why? Because she’s googled John and can’t see anything older than 5 years. This is put forth as a conclusive assumption that he is hiding something. Of course he is! The Internet doesn’t lie! Everyone’s entire life is on the Internet. My buddy’s sister’s best friend’s boyfriend said so. And HE works at Best Buy so he should know …

As much as we all want to think otherwise, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. The corollary is also true. Just because it ISN’T on the Internet doesn’t mean people are hiding something. And the notion of “public” databases? Um … yeah … We have gobs of legislation that protects an individual’s right to privacy in the event the person they are sleeping with is a nutter.

This came across as just plain silly. As with the nun in the last episode, dying for the convenience of a different plot point, this google bit comes over as an unbelievable excuse to get to the actual fight and breakup.

If the writer wants to have a fight, have a fight! Don’t make up something daffy to justify it. Let the characters drive the action.

SPITBALLS – Dillane is a Pain Redux …

God help me.

Someone kill her.

Run her over with a bus.

Something. Just. Get. Rid. Of. Her.

Now that she has been actively boinking this guy for a couple episodes, she suddenly has some moral, ethical, personal safety issue with a sex partner that keeps perceived secrets? Um. From where I stand a Very Smart Doctor Who Can Google – as the character herself relates – should be street-wise enough not to jump the bones of the first guy who pulls up to emerge in a horse-drawn carriage.

Sheesh.

SPITBALLS – Taze me baby one more time

Not only does Detective Santori smell of mangos, he also has a fondness for tasing anyone who twitches. What the heck?

He was in a roomful of veteran police officers with an unarmed but boisterous drunk. Surely … SURELY … he had some other less ridiculous method of getting the drunk under control than escalating the situation straight to tasing.

The cops I know would be in serious trouble if they pulled a stunt like that. They would also be totally and completely and absolutely embarrassed that they didn’t have some other method of subduing a chirpy inebriated homeless guy.

This scene didn’t even have some higher point that moved the plot along. It was just stupid.

SPITBALLS – Girls just wanna have bonding …

In other wacky character news, we have a new character in Detective Sergeant Callie Burnett. Another nut fallen from the coconut tree. Her central part in this episode seemed to be to establish that she and Eve are the only women and women need to stick together … to “bond” (her words, I swear to God, not mine!).

For a few moments, I thought John was having another sixties flashback. Then I realized Sarge was serious. She actually tells Eve outright that they are the only two women in the department. Then she complements Eve on her shoes. I was embarrassed for the actresses, for the writer, for everyone associated with that scene …

A great big love note goes out to the actress who plays Eve. She dealt with the insipid exchanges and did her very best to keep her reaction grounded in the year 2008. Bless her heart.

SPITBALLS – Come out come out whenever you are …

This episode had a huge reveal. This was John’s coming out as an immortal to both his son and Dillane the Pain.

Three spitballs in rapid succession … big juicy ones that blow out of the straw like a bullet and splat on the teachers face …
1) John had to write about 325 years of history and filled a banker’s box full of copy books. It took him less than a single day to read it all to Omar. Try reading Gone With The Wind out loud. See how long it takes you …
2) There is NO time spent on Omar’s reaction. What? All that build up and all we get is a sagging head? What a complete and wasted build up … I felt cheated.
3) Dillane the Pain didn’t believe him when he told her the god’s honest truth about his past. My issue for once is not with Dillane but with John … what on earth has he learned in the last 350 years that would make him tell her about immortality that way and expect her to believe him?

CONCLUSION

Agree? Disagree? Vent thy spleen in comments.

AFTERWORD

See this TV Guide Update on the show as at Oct 16 2007. They only made 8 episodes before putting the show on hold. There are 3 shows left to air. If you are interested in saving the show, check out this site for details.

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