The television landscape is currently chock full of medical dramas. Yet another was added to the slate this week courtesy of NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” which premiered on Sept. 24. Bollywood actor Anupam Kher stars as Dr. Vijay Kapoor. The role is notable because it marks Kher’s first role as a series regular on an American TV show.
“New Amsterdam” certainly tries to tug at all your heart strings in the pilot episode, maybe a little too much. We’re introduced to Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), the newest medical director of America’s oldest public hospital New Amsterdam. He wants to “shake things up” on his first day to prioritize patient care. It gives him the chance to extensively use his catchphrase “how can I help?”
He starts off by firing the entire cardio department save for Dr. Floyd Reynolds (Jocko Sims) because they put billing over care. Almost every doctor is impressed by his methods and his medical know-how by the end of the episode. It seems like he is, in fact, a great addition. The only one to medically best him is Dr. Kapoor.
Dr. Kapoor has been with New Amsterdam for several years now, probably longer than every other doctor there. He has his ways and he knows he’s right with the patient he’s treating in the episode, even if Dr. Goodwin initially disagrees. Dr. Kapoor isn’t necessarily on board with his methods but both of their goals are the same: exceptional patient care.
While he hasn’t done primetime television as a regular before, Kher is already familiar face in Hollywood. Over the years he’s done films like “Bride and Prejudice,” “Bend it Like Beckham,” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” More recently, he’s had recurring roles on the Netflix original drama “Sense8,” Russell Peters’ Canadian show “The Indian Detective,” and he’s a star in the upcoming drama “Hotel Mumbai.” With these roles, Kher certainly established his standing as a crossover star.
His role in “New Amsterdam” further cements this position. He joins a league of Indian actors like Priyanka Chopra, Rahul Khanna, Suraj Sharma, and Nimrat Kaur, who have all branched into American TV.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kher is acing his performance in the show. He’s always been a captivating performer, no matter the genre. Another interesting part for his character is the bromance of sorts he shares with Tyler Labine’s Dr. Iggy Frome, a child psychiatrist. It will be interesting to see his character grow as the show progresses and how Kher informs Dr. Vijay Kapoor’s development.
“New Amsterdam’s” strength is its cast. Kher, Labine, Eggold, Sims, Freema Agyeman, and Janet Montgomery form a skilled ensemble. But is that enough to fully enjoy the show?
In order to stand out, a medical drama really needs to work hard today when we have “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Chicago Med,” “The Resident,” “The Good Doctor” already dominating the scene. For now, “New Amsterdam” doesn’t offer something drastically different from them. It relies on similar tropes like a doctor who doesn’t follow orders or severely emotional medical cases.
This is all fine and dandy because audiences do love this sort of drama. The ratings of “New Amsterdam” prove it. It drew 8.4 million total viewers for its premiere. The fact that it got the prime post-“This is Us” spot proves NBC’s faith in it. The catch is maintaining similar momentum while striving to offer something fresh, something that differs from the other medical dramas.
In its first episode alone, “New Amsterdam” touched upon heavy topics including immigration, terrorism, ebola, cancer, interracial dating. They’re all timely and relevant but instead of mashing them together in the space of a 40-minute episode, “New Amsterdam” needs to make its content tighter to send a stronger message.
For now, all indications are that “New Amsterdam” is here to stay and I can see why. It’s exactly the kind of cathartic drama audiences will love, even if the quality of content isn’t top notch. Kher is wonderful in his role and it’s exciting to see him full-time on American TV. For this reason alone, we hope the show succeeds in what it’s trying to do.
“New Amsterdam” airs every Tuesday at 10/9c on NBC.