ABC’s Forever is essentially a patchwork of other successful television series. In fact, Forever may be the most calculated of the fall premieres by following a simple formula for success (one that CBS is usually champion of). There’s a procedural aspect, a little bit of the supernatural, romance, mystery, and all of it is tied together by the handsome Welsh face of Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four), a doctor with a little bit of a death wish. Sure we’ve seen it all before, but is there something about this one that’s different? Hit the jump to find out if that alchemy works, and if Forever deserves a spot on your DV-R.
Some pilots are talkier than most, explaining the purpose and the show upfront as fast and as clearly as possible to hook viewers whose attentions are being pulled in a myriad of other directions. Forever goes even further by being one of those that dispenses with any kind of story to start off with, instead just narrating a treatment for the first fifteen minutes. Consider it a prologue. But also beware that it is a warning that this is not a show that’s going to require much brain power.
That prologue could also be called “the strange and supernatural life of Dr. Henry Morgan (Gruffudd),” who, 200 years ago, was cursed with immortality. Watching everyone you love grow old and die over and over again is no picnic, he assures us, and kind of like Wolverine, he gets involved in all of the wars and problems of each age, using his special ability to do as much good as possible.
His ability, as commercials for the series have been touting for months now, is the fact that no matter how many times he is killed (and he dies a lot, even in the pilot), he’s always reborn in water, naked, fit as a fiddle. That, he tells viewers, is as much as he knows about how “condition.” The subtext there is: stop thinking and asking questions (such as, “does the body disappear? Does no one ever notice?”), and just look at his face.
Currently, Henry works as a medical examiner in New York City, and is considered a maverick in his field (he can sometimes just look at a body and know the cause of death, presumably because most things he has experienced himself). In a very Sherlockian way, Henry is able to use deductive reasoning to intrusively suss out people’s personal lives, particularly the private lives of attractive Russian women on public transportation. The rest of the time, he allows himself to die (or actively kills himself) to try and advance his exploration of something. No big deal, of course — he always comes back.
What gives Forever another layer besides just being a procedural about a supernatural (kind of like Sleepy Hollow‘s time traveling protagonist) is a mysterious Big Bad, who is a kind of Moriarty-like figure. He may also be immortal, and tries to get Henry to reveal himself by goading him with a network of would-be criminals, whose crimes (often murders) he tinges with details from Henry’s past, which the series will continue to explore.
This might all be a lot more interesting if Forever didn’t make its supporting cast so completely uninteresting, particularly FBI agent Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza). She and Henry team up, but she is instantly both wary of him and attracted to him (he’s the brilliant lead, she’s the befuddled but intrigued female sidekick. Yawn). Both have lost loves, possibly leading the way to romance, etc., snooze. Though there is a somewhat interesting twist regarding Henry’s only friend and confident, Abe (Judd Hirsch), its reliance on emotional manipulation is far too forced.
Forever seems to be mostly based on how handsome and charming Ioan Gruffudd is as a lead, and it’s not necessarily a bad bet by ABC (in fact, their recent promotional campaign has been heavily geared towards viewers “finding your new crush”). Henry Morgan isn’t a bad place to start, but it’s not enough to make Forever must-see TV. It’s an old twist on a new idea … meaning there’s no twist at all.
Premiere Date: Monday, September 22nd at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.
Pilot Rating: Fair
Chance of Cancellation: Moderate
DV-R Priority: Low (background noise)