ABC’s Forever: Appealing, But With a Murky Future

Ladies and gentlemen, your hybrid show with an undying protagonist for the 2014 fall season is ABC’s Forever, and it’s anyone’s guess how long it’ll stick around. Taking all bets now.

Detective Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza) and Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd).

Genre shows are all the rage these days, whereas crime dramas are a dime a dozen. The success of smushing together elements of the traditional and the contemporary depends on how seriously a show takes itself, and while Forever is a bit of a romp through established TV tropes, it also elicits a decided “ehhh” in terms of staying power. Starring The Fantastic Four’s Ioan Gruffudd (sporting the most wonderfully Welsh name, damn, lookit those consonants in places they shouldn’t be), this show has the potential to be a good palette cleanser in an era of sobering television, especially in a post-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. timeslot. It’s unclear, however, if that title is inadvertently writing a check the show can’t cash.

The pilot episode is standard fare. Its cold open introduces us to Dr. Henry Morgan, a New York City medical examiner who cannot die and has picked up enviable skills of deduction in his abnormally long life. The show’s female lead arrives in the form of Detective Jo Martinez, played by CSI: Miami alum Alana De La Garza, who sports her own demons in the form of a no-nonsense demeanor and a recently-deceased husband. (I’m already plotting the Henry/Jo ship name. Jenry? Morg-tinez? The possibilities are endless.) Also joining the dramatis personae is Abe, played by Judd Hirsch, who is intimately familiar with Henry’s affliction and acts as his sidekick/sounding board.

If nothing else, I find Gruffudd a pleasure to watch. His character, a mix of Sherlock Holmes, Torchwood’s Captain Jack Harkness, and a dash of Mr. Darcy, is thoroughly likeable and easy to sympathize with. His backstory is simple: while in transit across the ocean two hundred years prior, he was asked to examine a slave thought to be dying of cholera who turned out to be perfectly healthy. The overseers demanded the slave be disposed of regardless, and when Henry defended the man, he was shot and thrown overboard. To this day, whenever Henry “dies,” he always comes back in water — and, to my endless enjoyment, he’s always naked.

Abe (Judd Hirsch) tries to talk Henry out of what will hopefully be the first in a series of creative deaths.

This explanation for Henry’s condition, as far as I can tell, is flimsy, relatively unemotional, and smacks of white savior complex. But the waking up naked in a body of water? Now that’s fun, though I do hope, for sake of redundancy as well as poor Gruffudd’s good health, that it’s not always the East River he turns up in. Why not a penthouse pool, or Bethesda Fountain in Central Park? I may be jumping the gun here, given that only two episodes have aired, but I think there are many ways in which the particulars of the rebirth scenes can be taken.

Forever is also dotted with voiceovers of Henry waxing philosophic, an understandable tool for a show that centers on literally and figuratively dissecting death. It’s too much “tell” and not enough “show,” though; I’d rather piece together what I think is going on in a character’s head rather than be told flat out. In spite of this, though, the show does have its ingenious moments which make me think it might have a fighting chance (the reveal of how Abe’s story is intertwined with Henry’s is like a straight injection of the warm fuzzies).

This show has temporarily charmed me into submission, and I do want it to do well, but it hasn’t quite won me over yet.

Forever airs Tuesdays on ABC at 10 PM.

Posted on September 29, 2014, in ABC, Drama, Primetime and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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