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'New Amsterdam' casts real patient stories in a hospital that cares

By
Karen Butler
Ryan Eggold (L) and Dr. Eric Manheimer talked to reporters about their show New Amsterdam on Sept. 6 in New York. Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC
Ryan Eggold (L) and Dr. Eric Manheimer talked to reporters about their show "New Amsterdam" on Sept. 6 in New York. Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Sept. 25 (UPI) -- NBC's New Amsterdam puts a new spin on the well-worn medical drama: What if a brilliant, passionate administrator ordered his staff to prioritize patient care over the hospital's bottom line?

Inspired by Dr. Eric Manheimer's non-fiction book Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital, the feel-good show co-stars Ryan Eggold, Freema Agyeman, Jocko Sims, Janet Montgomery, Tyler Labine and Anupam Kher.

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The first episode airs at 10 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

New Amsterdam introduces Blacklist alum Eggold as Dr. Max Goodwin, a physician with cancer who begins his tenure as the medical director of America's oldest hospital by firing the entire cardiac surgical staff because of shamefully high mortality and infection rates. Once the doctors clear the room, Goodwin earnestly asks the remaining department chairs, "How can I help?" -- then actually listens to their suggestions.

"It's rooted in a real person's real experiences with different patients, with a system larger than himself that doesn't function as well as it could," Eggold told UPI about the show, which is set in New York. "The fact that it's coming from a place of real-life experience and discovery and things that Eric has learned makes the world more specific and more real and separates it" from other medical dramas.

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Manheimer, who serves as a consultant on New Amsterdam, said other shows may be compelling and entertaining, but they rarely focus on social issues such as poverty, immigration, crime and the high cost of healthcare -- government statistics show more than 3 million Americans don't have health insurance.

"They are missing one of the major points," Manheimer said. "It's not just a Sherlock Holmes [mystery.] So, we do have the patients with very interesting and complicated medical problems, but where are they coming from and why are they here? ... Our job is to take care of these people."

Eggold's co-star Kher (The Big Sick, Bride and Prejudice) said he joined the project because it has an uplifting tone and compassionate characters.

"It's very important to show goodness on television because what attracts us is nastiness and bitchiness and violence. This is about good people," he said. "This is a drama with heart."

Cast member Agyeman (Torchwood, Sense8) said New Amsterdam may inspire hope in viewers who see their own problems reflected there.

"It's about real people. It's about real-life situations that are relatable," she said. "People are seeking this in these politically divisive times. It's obviously resonating. The shows that are doing the best on television right now are in those parameters. So, I think people hunger for that now."

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