Tuned In: Mortally mundane

Fox misses mark with shows about an IMMORTAL cop and four unmarried losers

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my first impression of "New Amsterdam" (9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, WPGH), Fox's drama about an immortal cop: It's another high concept series that should be a one-shot movie.

It's the story of John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a Dutch soldier in 1642 New Amsterdam (later-to-be New York), who gets driven through by a sword while saving a native American Indian girl. Her relatives put him under a spell that will make him immortal until he finds his soulmate.

In Tuesday's pilot, "New Amsterdam" reveals itself as a pedestrian cop show with a vampire-like lead character who has a heart attack and thinks it's a sign that he's met his match.

Through flashbacks, Thursday's episode intrigues as it reveals more of Amsterdam's background and relationships. Now we have a TV show, or we would if producers or Fox executives allowed the character story to come to the forefront. Instead, the most interesting part of the show gets shoved to the background in favor of a blah cop show, similar to the problems that plagued Fox's "K-Ville" in the fall.

A native of Denmark, Coster-Waldau is charming enough, but too boyish to be the edgy cop the show tries to make Amsterdam in the premiere. His accent is all over the place -- a hint of European here, some Noo Yawk there. He's much better suited to playing the romance of the character than he is to the police procedural.

Film director Lasse Hallstrom ("Cider House Rules") directed the pilot, and it has some nicely composed, cinematic shots, but episode two points in the direction of what "New Amsterdam" should and could be.

Next week "New Amsterdam" will settle into its regular time period, 9 p.m. Monday, but not for long. Fox, either sensing a dud or fearing too many midseason shows, cut the episode order from 13 to eight last fall.

'Unhitched'

Imagining the meeting that led to the creation of Fox's "Unhitched" (9:30 tonight, WPGH) is more fun than actually watching the show.

With a pilot directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, "the Farrelly brothers" who hilariously and revoltingly introduced organic hair gel in "There's Something About Mary," "Unhitched" is your basic TV comedy with a Farrelly spin.

This means in the pilot episode, soon-to-be-divorced Gator (Craig Bierko, "Boston Legal") not only dates a woman obsessed with primates, he's also almost raped by her pet monkey.

The Farrellys serve as executive producers on "Unhitched" and you can see their fingerprints in the second episode, too, when Gator dates a woman with a shrimp-shaped skin tag on her back.

"Unhitched" is really all about getting to these outrageous, gross-out scenarios. Yes, there's a theme -- all the characters are single, thirtysomethings looking for love -- but it's clearly less important than the chance to see a monkey pounce on Bierko or an odd-shaped piece of skin hanging off his date's back.

In addition to Gator, "Unhitched" features his friends Kate (Rashida Jones, "The Office"), thrice-divorced lay-about Tommy (Johnny Sneed) and inept-with-women Freddy (Shaun Majumder). But you get no sense of why these four people would be friends other than as cogs in the show's wheel, hanging together until the next shocking situation arises, which happens at least once an episode.

In a way, "Unhitched" reminds me of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" in its attempts to shock, but this new series feels more manufactured and far less likely to become a cult hit.

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TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112. Ask TV questions at post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.


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