Forever S01 E01 - Pilot
The world of US TV is cutthroat. New shows break free from the production egg and take their first tentative baby steps into the light, furiously blinking and trying to see through the harsh glare.
The harsh glare being a well-armed mob holding up giant spotlights.
In this case the mob will also be referring to the "Big Book of other things that Forever will be compared to..."
Within the first few minutes we can tick off Sherlock,Highlander,Bones and Unbreakable...
There's logic in all of these but you can't help feeling that because it's a pilot it's standing in front of the mob with the spotlights shouting "Look at all the stuff I can do that you like...please don't beat me up" , rather than "Hey, I bet you've never seen this before!".
This show is trying very hard to be liked. Maybe too hard. Try slowing down a little. Stop trying to be all of these things we already know AT THE SAME TIME..
So what's it about...
Ioan Grufford is Doctor Henry Morgan...(pausesforbreath)....ImmortalDetectiveMedicalExaminer&SherlockImpersonator. He's a 200 year old ships doctor, killed aboard ship for standing up for the life of a transported slave. He's shot and killed and wakes up in water with no memory of the intervening time. From that point on its a process that goes on and on, each time he dies it's pop up next morning in water with no idea how he got there,. Oh, and he's always naked when he reincarnates.
Cut to modern day New York, where he's the top New York Medical Examiner, working with corpses hoping for the day when he'll be one. He's been working in death related jobs for a long time, looking for the mystery of mortality and what makes him different.
Being 200 years old of course grants him the wisdom of years, although he seems not to have picked up the "kids of today...bah!!" and the " it was much better in my day when we were allowed to be foul to people for being different " that you tend to get with really old people.
This is where I have my first proper gripe. This wisdom of ages stuff has been turned into the ability to do Sherlock Holmes style assessments of people with a mere glance. This happens almost straight away in the pilot episode and almost put me off the whole thing immediately. On seeing an attractive lady in a subway car, he introduces himself and describes her in such a way that any normal woman would be screaming "STALKER" and reaching for the pepper spray. Sure you can see all this stuff and point it out, but that would make the "Does my bum look big in this?" conversation mighty treacherous territory indeed.
Then comes the follow up gripe...
It's a given that Films and TV all portray Immortality as a terrible burden, all Immortals just want to end their miserable, mopey, lonely existence. They've seen everyone they care about die and so they don't want to live anymore. No exceptions here... The love of Henry's life has been and gone...a flashback or two and we know that SHE was “it”, the one and only, so he can never love again... Except... He's chatting up women on the subway, and quite obviously interested in Detective Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza), gruff independent, borderline alcoholic, widowed police Detective who's been assigned to the underground crash that brings them together. So life can’t be that bad if you are stuck at 35 years old permanently, good looking and are moderately wealthy from selling all of the stuff you've accumulated over the years as antiques and being in a highly paid medical job.
So after realizing Henry was in the tragic accident, Detective Martinez treats him as a suspect in what becomes apparent was no accidental crash after all.
There are some irritating leaps of logic, such as why does this week’s protagonist (there will be a new case each week) have detailed schematics of the pictures on the outside of a wall when you're interested in what's behind it ? Having detailed drawings of what the wall looks like would be a giant CLUE to anyone trying to see what you're doing eh?
There is also the matter of a number of fringe criminal activities by Henry that seemed to be glossed over very easily by the police, possession of poisonous substances, leaving the scene of a crime, public nudity. None of these apparently have any impact on his role as a police M.E. either...
So it's all bad news then...
Despite being a poor mans' Benedict Cumberbatch, Ioan Grufford makes a likeable lead. What's needed is a bit less in your face cleverness and a bit more ancient wisdom, wit and insight. He's also ably assisted by Judd Hirsch as an elderly sidekick, dispensing the human touch wisdom - although in this instance it would be the equivalent of Henry Morgan getting life mentoring from an eight year old.
There's an interesting medical diagnostic technique which is a nice touch (can’t give too much away here).
And the central mystery of Henry's life has another layer added to it by the end of the episode, although this weeks’s case is a bit dull.
I'll forgive the little niggles and some of the cramming of familiar concepts as this is a pilot, a frightened and needy little pilot ,that having performed its tricks is now waiting for the mob to descend. The mob is currently standing back with blunt instruments raised, waiting for the next trick.
If there are more tricks in the box, then this youngster could last a few more weeks yet.