Jun 11, 2015

[TV] Forever: Season 1

With the start of every TV season, there are a number of new shows that step up to the plate and hope to survive the rigors of the TV world. Regardless of plot or how vocally fans support or disdain a particular program, at the end of the day it's down to the show's ratings and perhaps even the mood of the studio executives on the day of the big meeting that decides the fate of any show.

I was rooting for Forever - I wanted it to find its voice and last for more than just a season. But things didn't work out as hoped and the show at least managed to finish its first season before finally calling it a day. And while it wasn't a great show, it's one that heart and will certainly be missed.

What exactly made Forever so endearing? It's hard to pinpoint a particular reason since I'm sure it's a little different for everyone. Maybe people are just charmed by the show's protagonist. Maybe people like flashbacks. Maybe they just like the thought of people showing up naked in a river at random intervals.

Like I said, there was a little something for everyone.

Synopsis: Forever was a US drama series created by Matt Miller and aired on ABC. The show had a single 22 episode season before it was confirmed cancelled.

At the center of the show is Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is the current New York medical examiner. Henry also has a secret - he's actually immortal. About 200 years ago he was shot in the chest but for reasons unknown he came back to life. And this pattern continues on until this day - every time he dies, he disappears from the location of his death and reappears naked in any nearby body of water. For now that's the river, since it's New York. He has also stopped aging, thus forever appears as he did at the moment of his first death. His only companion through all this is Abe (Judd Hirsch), who owns an antique shop and is aware of Henry's secret.

Beyond just being a medical examiner, Henry's longer life has allowed him to learn a lot about death in line with his own quest to figure out why he's immortal. And thus NYPD Detective Jo Martinez (Alana de Guzman) soon comes to appreciate his keen powers of observation coupled with his vast range of knowledge in solving crimes. And as he ventures out of the morgue more and more to help consult on her cases, he also draws the attention of another immortal figure.

As a character, Henry is like a death-obsessed Sherlock Holmes and it seems a bit of a surprise to me that he hasn't manage to attract more attention to himself prior to the events in the show. He's painfully helpful when it comes to pointing out little details or revealing clues that may have gone unnoticed and that kind a personality is bound to get people to notice him more. But I suppose his usual strategy of moving around the country (or even the world?) to change things up and prevent people from noticing that he doesn't age has worked well enough for him thus far.

The show naturally included a sort of soft will-they-or-won't-they sort of intimate friendship between Henry and Detective Martinez which is pretty much a staple of most TV show these days and didn't seem all that inventive. The show also got stuck in the whole case of the week episodic format and it took a while before it really tried to built on its meta-plot in a more serious way. And the way that other plot was handled felt painfully slow and wasn't all that enticing to viewers, or at least that's how it struck me.

And it's a shame since Gruffudd has a delightful manner of speaking that lent itself quite well to Henry's Sherlock-like character. You could just listen to him go on and on about all the little details he's noticed or when he's piecing a case together by narrating this thinking to whoever is nearby. It was quite the dazzling performance and as an actor, Gruffudd carried a lot of the weight of the show on his shoulders, and he did so quite well.

But in the end the show didn't really feel like it knew where it wanted to go and there can't possibly be enough causes of death in the world that can be tied to 19th century medical knowledge and related factoids. Cases were becoming more and more implausible and the focus of the episode would inevitably be solved by Henry's archaic knowledge of the past. It's entertaining at times but rather incredulous and improbable otherwise.

On the whole the show just felt too safe and safe doesn't get you renewed for a second season. It was a nice bit of comfort TV that wasn't too exciting but wasn't to dramatic either. It was just sort of coasting through right down the middle and that only got it equally mediocre attention from viewers. I enjoyed it quite a bit but I don't think that I can go as far as say that I was enough of a fan to actually love the show or anything like that.

So I feel bad that Forever got cancelled, but I also understand why studio executives figured that it was more cost effective to pull the plug on the show. At least we got one decent season and a lot of memorable moments and many shows left the airwaves without even that. Thus I can safely rate the show as 3.5 strange moments of insight based on Henry's past out of a possible 5.


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