September 24, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Forever”


FOREVER:  Tuesday 10PM on ABC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on FOREVER:  Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is a New York medical examiner with a secret:  he’s been alive for 200 years.  It’s not that he can’t be killed, but when he is, his body instantly vanishes, only to pop up naked and alive in a nearby body of water.  He doesn’t know himself why he has this power/curse, but over the centuries he’s used his time to become an expert in just about everything, making him a fearsome detective in his own right.  Henry’s elderly sidekick Abe (Judd Hirsch) is actually the baby Holocaust survivor Henry and his then-wife adopted in 1945.  Recently, Henry’s life became more interesting, in both good and bad ways:  his new unofficial NYPD partner is beautiful and recently-widowed homicide detective Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza), but less pleasantly, he’s been plagued by phone calls from a stranger who not only knows Henry’s hidden ability, but claims to share it with him.

Episode 2:  The second hour of Forever, written by series creator Matt Miller and directed by Sam Hill, made it clear that the series is fundamentally a procedural with bits and pieces of mythology attached, and one whose gimmicks may quickly become tiresome.  A mid-episode death was contrived for Henry, so that he could disappear and pop up naked in the East River, rescued by Abe before anything embarrassing could happen.  (The script glossed over just how Henry contacted Abe, having neither cell phone nor money with him when he awoke.)  He did his Sherlock Holmes bit several times (and there was even a Sherlock gag to make clear that the show knows how familiar this is), sizing up people and evidence in seconds and rattling off his (always perfect) conclusions.  A few breadcrumbs about the mysterious phone-caller told us only that he claims to be 2000 years old, and another World War II-era flashback re-established how much Henry had loved his now-dead wife Abigail (MacKenzie Mauzy).

The murder mystery part of the hour was both routine and ridiculously far-fetched, with Henry knowing instantly that the woman who had gotten out of a cab in the middle of a NY bridge, walked to the railing and climbed over had in fact been murdered rather than committed suicide.  There was a red herring suspect to keep everyone occupied for a while, and then when he turned up dead (another fake suicide), there was the forgot-the-character-even-existed identity of the real killer.  Henry’s immortality was hardly relevant to the investigation, except in the sense of his massive body of knowledge.  (When he made his own climb over the bridge railing, director Hill tried to hide the inadequate CG with some strategic blurriness.)

Forever is pleasant, and Gruffudd and de la Garze make an appealing not-yet-couple, but as light crime dramas go, it has nothing like the in-depth casting of Bones, nor that show’s often clever plotting.  Lorraine Toussaint, who wasn’t in the pilot, joined up as Martinez’s commanding officer, and her two by-the-book scenes make one want to weep that this was the best the actress could find to do after her spectacular turn on Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black.  Joel David Moore and Hirsch seem to have been cast off script directions that called for a “Joel David Moore-type” and a “Judd Hirsch-type.”

In its special “preview” Monday night, Forever had a decent 1.7 rating in 18-49s, down about 20% from its Dancing With the Stars lead-in, but airing against the powerhouse Blacklist, and in any case far better than ABC has done lately in the Tuesday 10PM slot, where its recent flops include Lucky 7, Killer Women and Mind Games.  As forgettable as Forever is, if it can hold to that ratings level, ABC will be happy to keep it alive for as long as its hero endures.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  Barely Enough Life For One Mortal Existence


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."