RogerBW's Blog

Forever season 1 17 September 2015

2014-2015, 22 episodes: the immortal Henry Morgan works as a medical examiner in modern New York to fund his research on ending his own life. Wikipedia

It's a detective show! It's a paranormal romance! With historical flashbacks! Some episodes are almost entirely conventional crime-solving, with perhaps an archaic bit of knowledge from Henry – in much the same way that another show might use a character with a photographic memory or a successful writing career). In fact it's basically what Linda Holmes at NPR called The Adventures Of Mr. Superabilities And Detective Ladyskeptic, which makes the conceptual debt to The X-Files even more obvious.

But other episodes are about the burdens of immortality and Henry's life in some historical period, or take some advantage of Henry's unique method of immortality: when he dies, his corpse vanishes, and he appears naked in the nearest large body of water. The problem is, these are two different sorts of story, and while the scripts try to blend them, an individual episode will tend to focus on just one. The result is a series with a feel that changes very sharply from one week to the next.

The leads are appealing: Ioan Gruffudd can obviously do this sort of thing without even trying, while Alana de la Garza hasn't as much experience but also has a less demanding part. They have only moderate chemistry, but do a decent job of making this look like two people who might be thinking about getting closer but who both have solid internal reasons not to do so. Judd Hirsch is effectively a third lead, as Henry's adopted son from the 1940s (now of course rather older-looking than Henry himself).

Part of the problem in the end is that the show focuses too much on Henry; in early episodes it's a double act between him and Detective Jo Martinez, a bit like a gender-flipped version of Body of Proof, but as Henry freezes her out rather than risk sharing his secret with her, she effectively becomes sidelined from the series arc and only involved in the per-episode stories.

What I think the show needed to do was either blend its premises better, or pick one and stick to it. Even so, I rather enjoyed its attempts to turn a generic gimmick police procedural into something more interesting, and I'd recommend it for viewing while advising the viewer to keep only moderate expectations.

The show was cancelled after one season, although its ratings weren't noticeably worse than those of other shows on the same network that were renewed; on the other hand, this was an external production (by Warner Brothers for ABC) which always raises costs and complications.

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