Make no mistake about it; ABC’s new drama FOREVER is a crime-of-the-week procedural. Those of you who regularly read my reviews will now expect a scathing tear-down of the show. Yet, for some reason, I absolutely love it, or at least, I love the pilot. I expect I’ll probably turn on FOREVER at some point in its freshman season, as many episodes are likely to feel repetitive. However, it sucks me in with terrific characters and an extremely intriguing premise that I really want to know more about.
On the surface, FOREVER could be seen as Castle: Immortal Style. It features a very intelligent, charming non-law enforcement investigator, Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd, Ringer, Fantastic Four), who begins helping out a tough, independent, smart, at-times-annoyed-by-him female detective, Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza, Do No Harm, Law & Order). The hook is not that Henry is a writer; he’s an immortal that wakes up naked in the water every time he is killed. And it sure seems like he’s been killed a lot.
Now, Henry is a medical examiner, the type of man who looks at dead bodies and determines their cause of death. This makes him a little more relevant and his involvement a little more appropriate than his counterpart on sister show Castle, which airs on the same network. But I doubt many medical examiners are usually out walking the beat and hunting for clues. The ones shown in other TV shows are usually small, recurring parts, other than in Body of Proof, which is a unique case.
There is a third player who is equally important to the mix, Henry’s friend Abe (Judd Hirsch, Taxi, Numb3rs). The only person Henry has entrusted with his secret, they obviously have been close for a very long time. Abe encourages Henry to help the pretty Jo and tries to get him to engage in life, something Henry has struggled with since the death of his wife. Might now be the time and the place Henry will come out of his shell? Of course it is. Otherwise, there’d be no television show.
When considering why FOREVER stands out above the pack, this central trio, especially the two men, as Jo’s character is pretty stock at this point, are more interesting and colorful than in other programs. Henry has the brains of Sherlock Holmes, but is more centered and calm, having learned much through hard-won experience over hundreds of years. Abe’s role is a bit more murky, but who doesn’t love Hirsch? He brings to the table an engaging personality.
The larger arcs, Henry’s origin and a guy who keeps calling threatening to expose the secret, are dealt with in the first episode, quickly establishing there will be an ongoing story in addition to the procedural. It may just be because this is a pilot, but FOREVER seems to give almost as much weight to this as it does to the weekly case, which makes the hour go down better.
There’s also a heck of a twist at the end that I cannot spoil, and I’m surprised at how surprised I was to see it. But it’s very cool, and I cannot wait for the implications of it to be explored.
The supporting cast includes Joel David Moore (Bones, Avatar), Donnie Keshawarz (The Wolf of Wall Street), and Lorraine Toussaint (Orange Is the New Black). Each plays a co-worker of one of the two leads, and none really stand out much in the initial installment. But that’s par for this type of show. At least they’ve cast people who can handle better material, should it be given to them.
There are a great many crime shows on television, and there are very few I pay attention to, pretty much just Bones, Castle, and Elementary. Somehow, FOREVER seems at least on par with those, a couple of notches better than the Law & Order or NCIS franchises. It strikes a balance between the standardized format and something interesting, and as long as it keeps serious weight on the latter, it could be a show worth watching.
FOREVER premieres Tuesday, September 23rd at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.