August 23, 2014

THE SKED Fall Pilot Report: ABC’s “Forever”


FOREVER:  Tuesday 10PM on ABC starting September 23 – If Nothing Else is On…

Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation aren’t necessarily in their final form. It’s not unusual for pilots to be reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot, before hitting the air. Consider these reports to be guides to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.

PLAYERS:  Series creator Matthew Miller, an experienced writer/producer on shows like Chuck, 666 Park Avenue and The 100, but who hasn’t had a show that he created on the air in 15 years.  Stars Ioan Gruffudd and Alana de la Garza, and a supporting cast that includes Judd Hirsch and Joel David Moore (and Lorraine Toussaint, fresh off her triumphant turn on Orange Is the New Black, although she doesn’t appear in the pilot).  Pilot director Brad Anderson.  Warner Bros. Television.

PREMISE:  Who’s charming, European, 200 years old and not a vampire?  Dr. Henry Morgan (Gruffudd), who for mysterious reasons has been given (or cursed with) immortality.  Whenever he dies–and that’s fairly often–he literally resurfaces, naked, in a nearby body of water.  Although he’s had a varied past, Henry lives in New York now, where he works as a Medical Examiner.  His wealth of experience and knowledge accumulated over the years, however, has also made him a spectacular detective who isn’t shy about sharing his insights with the police.  His new unofficial partner is NYPD detective Jo Martinez (de la Garza), who just happens to be gorgeous and recently widowed.  (She knows there’s something strange about him…)  Henry’s sidekick Abe (Hirsch) is elderly, but given the whole immortality thing, they’ve known each other for a long, long time.  The One More Complication every procedural seems to need these days:  a phone-caller who knows exactly what Henry’s secret is, and is probably up to no good.

PILOT:  Forever is basically Castle + Elementary + half the shows on CW.  Everything about it is second-hand, but that’s not to say that fans of those predecessors (some of which are second-hand themselves) won’t enjoy it.  Gruffudd and de la Garza are an attractive, appealing couple, pleasant to watch, and “pleasant” seems to be Forever‘s goal overall.  Even when Henry is at his most Sherlock Holmesian, displaying his expertise about obscure poisons and deducing all the facets of Jo’s personal life, he’s very good-natured about it.  (He makes Elementary‘s Holmes seem downright edgy, not a word often applied to a CBS series.)

Everything about Forever is designed to be comfort food, from the supporting turns by Hirsch doing his lovably grouchy old Jewish man schtick and Moore playing another socially awkward scientist, to the production design, which looks like every other cop show you’ve ever seen.  Perhaps Miller has some surprises up his sleeve with Henry’s backstory (we get several flashbacks about the WW II-era love of Henry’s life, a tale that we know will end tragically but not exactly how), or with the serialized thread of the stranger who knows everything about Henry, but it’s hard to see Forever ever taking the risk of being seriously disconcerting.  It’s a professional, moderately entertaining, and not terribly exciting piece of work.

PROSPECTS:  The Tuesday 10PM slot on ABC has been the network’s short straw for the last several years, even though the competition isn’t blockbuster:  Person of Interest on CBS and Chicago Fire on NBC.  The ABC shows have perished mostly because they’ve been not just awful but unmarketable.  Forever isn’t going to be a zeitgeist hit, but it has a chance to reverse that pattern and at least manage to compete with the other procedurals airing against it.  It is, to use the old movie studio term, product.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."