July 28, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Unforgettable”


UNFORGETTABLE:  Sunday 9PM on CBS – If Nothing Else Is On…

You may already have forgotten UNFORGETTABLE.  It debuted in fall 2011 as one of CBS’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of procedurals, its particular gimmick being that heroine Detective Carrie Wells (Poppy Montgomery) has hyperthymesia, the ability to recall with absolute precision almost everything she’s ever seen or experienced.  The show teamed her with ex-boyfriend Al Burns (Dylan Walsh) as Queens cops, with the serialized element that Carrie was still trying to solve the childhood murder of her sister, which she witnessed but which was the only thing she’d ever been unable to reconstruct from memory.  Unforgettable‘s ratings weren’t awful–they were mostly in the 1.8 area, occasionally poking up above a 2, which on NBC would be enough to establish a franchise–but they were squandering most of the lead-in from NCIS and its spin-off, and CBS has the luxury of canceling shows that underperform even moderately.  So that’s what the network did.  But the show’s principal studio, Sony Television, is famed for its tenaciousness when a show is on the chopping block, and CBS needed original programming for summer 2013, so studio and network decided to bring Unforgettable back (probably for a reduced license fee), since in summer numbers anywhere close to what the show did during the regular season would be a major win.  (Originally, the episodes were meant to begin airing in June, but Montgomery’s real-life pregnancy pushed the schedule to the end of July.)

The series has been significantly revamped from its 2011-12 version.  Montgomery and Walsh are all that remain of the original cast, and tonight’s episode, which amounts to a re-pilot, moves them to Manhattan, where they now work for the citywide Major Crimes unit, with a new set of co-stars.  Dallas Roberts, late of The Walking Dead, is their politically connected supervisor Delson, Jane Curtin is their “colorful” forensics expert Webster, and although Tawny Cypress (ex-FBI agent Rollins) and James Hiroyuki Liao (high-tech guy Lee) aren’t listed in the credits as series regulars, the plan seems to be for them to be around for the long-ish haul.  Also, the sister’s murder story is essentially gone–it’s brought up a couple of times in the episode only to make clear that Carrie is no longer obsessed with it and is dropping her investigation.

What’s left is a very routine procedural.  Tonight’s episode, written by series creators Ed Redlich and John Belucci and directed by Jean de Segonzac, all very old hands at this genre (among other credits, Redlich and Belucci had worked with Montgomery on Without a Trace), concerned the kidnapping of a wealthy real estate developer’s daughter.  (The father was played by guest star Andrew McCarthy, most recently behind the camera as director of several Orange Is The New Black episodes.)  The show hit all the buttons any experienced TV viewer would expect:  the red herring suspect, the ransom drop that goes bad, the “twist” obvious from the relevant character’s introduction, the brilliant insights provided by Carrie and her special talent, the last-second rescue.  Montgomery and Walsh remain strong leads, albeit now with even less to do than they did before.  The signature stylistic trait of having Montgomery share the screen with herself as she watches the past version of her character see whatever the crucial piece of evidence is has been retained, and otherwise the show looks and feels like a dozen other cop shows, more than a few of them on CBS.

Unforgettable may prove to be a fairly smart play for CBS, giving it some original summer content with a pre-sold brand.  Fans of the show in its original incarnation will likely be fine with the changes, and although it has a less interesting concept than NBC’s Sunday night Crossing Lines, it could score better.  To be sure, summer Sundays offer far more textured and high-quality hours on cable, what with True Blood, Dexter, Falling Skies, and even The Newsroom, Copper and Ray Donovan all considerably superior.  Those wanting a fix of undemanding network programming during the summer months, though, may be glad CBS kept Unforgettable in its memory bank.


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."