Monday, March 10, 2008

New Amsterdam

New Amsterdam was the original name of the settlement on Manhattan. It is also the name of the drama I was most looking forward to this season. We saw the pilot last spring and loved it. It didn't make it to the fall schedule and, despite filming half a season, there was concern that it wouldn't see the light of day.

Then came the writers' strike.

New Amsterdam, staring Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, finally made it to the air last week. We re-watched the pilot and then saw the second episode this weekend. It definitely is on my must watch list for as long as it lasts.

The conceit is that he received an kind of immortality for saving the life of a native American as the Dutch arrived to colonize Manhattan. He was born in 1607 and now works as a detective in Manhattan. My very favorite part of this story is that he has spent the past 400 years in life-long learning. He's gone to Ivy League schools, he's a doctor, a lawyer, a famous furniture maker, and I'm certain we don't know what all yet. By the second episode we learn that he's been married--but only to one woman at a time--and he appears to keep at least some of his children in on the secret. A daughter was his aging secretary just prior to World War II. His aging son runs the bar where he has a hidden studio, turning out his famous style of now antique furniture when the need for cash arises.

He's Lazarus Long without the incest. He has no superpower except that he can't die--until he finds his one true soul mate, at which point he will age normally and die.

There's something about it that reminds me of Beauty and the Beast. Probably because he knows all of the hidden places in the city because he's seen it change over the course of 350 years. There is also something quite fun about the fact that he doesn't hide things that make people go "You think that's a joke? I can do the math. It means you've been sober since 1959." "I've got a young face," he replies. As a photographer, I love the series of pictures he has taken every year for about 150 of them of Times Square. There was a great special effect building Times Square through the years using still photos taken from the same place.

Coster-Waldau is utterly charming. I'll be there for the next episode, which is tonight at 9 on Fox.


kathy said...

Completely with you on this. When I heard that Lasse Hallström (My Life as a Dog, Chocolat) was directing the pilot, I was so there. And I read Eric Overmeyer's name as a producer on "Golden Boy."

The writing is what gets me. It's the one thing that the folks on Angel, Highlander, and Forever Knight never quite managed to pull off--to really make you believe this person had actually lived through all that time. And the effect this would have on your perception of time. The bit about the breaking mirror ("That's bad luck!" "Only seven years.") is one of my favorites in the pilot. And they surprised the hell out of me with John and Omar being father and son.

Oh and yeah. Loved the view camera sequence.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I've got to agree with you on this, I didn't really know if they could pull of this sort of story line, but it is working. I am looking forward to more shows.