New Amsterdam



9-10 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, March 4 and 6

Talk about a guy with a past. John Amsterdam is a New York homicide detective who has more baggage than an LAX carousel. For one, he has been around for about 400 years, give or take. His secret: immortality. It's tough because you watch your friends, lovers and kids all grow old and die while you remain forever young. But think of the frequent-flyer miles he's racked up.

This is the familiar, somewhat contrived but still intriguing premise of "New Amsterdam," a new Fox drama that gets the double-barreled sneak preview treatment after "American Idol" on Tuesday and Thursday. It pretty much guarantees a hefty sampling for an hour whose leads break from the starting gate with what has to be the most difficult-to-spell pair of names in primetime history: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Zuleikha Robinson. These vowels and consonants were never meant to be together. The mitigating factor: Both are really attractive, if not necessarily blessed with knockout chemistry.

So it's like this: Amsterdam (Coster-Waldau, who looks something like Jason Bateman's more dashing brother) is the brilliant and enigmatic dude who has a secret to die for -- or, actually, not. He has been around since the times of the original colonies, a Dutch soldier who in 1642 stepped in front of a sword to save the life of a Native American girl during a massacre of her tribe. She thanked him by conferring upon him a spell that keeps him alive and ageless until he finds "The One," i.e. his soulmate.

One might imagine that this will keep him in mortal fear of falling in love, and indeed it isolates him something awful. It also makes Johnny quite the local historian, having known New York firsthand dating to the days when Manhattan was a mere colonial outpost.

Of course, a dude like this is going to be a homicide detective, one with a sassy mismatched partner named Eva Marquez (Robinson) to whom he gets to say stuff like, "You sound just like my 609 other girlfriends." John has one confidant: club owner Omar (Stephen McKinley-Henderson), who knows the real story behind his eternal youth.

It almost comes crashing down in the opener when our never-say-die hero collapses in a heap after eyeing a doctor (Alexie Gilmore) whom we're led to believe could well be "The One." It's ironic, of course, because for nearly four centuries doctors are the one thing he hasn't had a use for. Talk about adding a new wrinkle to the health care debate. This is the guy the HMOs want to be insuring.

The premiere teleplay from Christian Taylor does a capable, if slightly workmanlike, job of setting the stage for what's to follow, while Coster-Waldau paints a beguiling portrait of a brooding, conflicted, undeniably charismatic soul. The latter is the second ageless protagonist to surface this season (the other being private eye/vampire on CBS' freshman drama "Moonlight"), but at the outset, "New Amsterdam" begs at least as many questions as it resolves. I mean, how is it that this guy can be hiding in plain sight in Manhattan for centuries without ever having changed his name and only one human has a clue about him? Why isn't he paying millions in child support to the heirs of heirs of heirs? And in all of these centuries, he's never fallen in love? Sheesh, some people uncover a new soulmate every month.

Of course, it's fundamental to the concept that we not scrutinize too closely while simultaneously checking our reasoning at the door, and the first two "Amsterdam" installments -- implausible and sometimes absurd though they might be -- prove sufficiently captivating to inspire a return visit with Mr. Fountain of Youth.

Regency Television Prods. and Fox Television Studios
Executive producers: Lasse Hallstrom, Leslie Holleran, Allan Loeb, Steven Pearl, David Manson
Producer: Michael Hausman
Associate producer: Vanessa Hayes
Teleplay: Christian Taylor
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Director of photography: Stuart Dryburgh
Production designer: David Gropman
Costume designer: Joseph Aulisi
Editor: Peter Frank
Music: Mychael Danna
Casting: Alexa L. Fogel
John Amsterdam: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Eva Marquez: Zuleikha Robinson
Dr. Sara Dillane: Alexie Gilmore
Omar: Stephen McKinley-Henderson