In the golden age of cop dramas, it’s getting harder by the minute to pick a police procedural to stand out from the herd. But Forever might just be the offbeat change of pace the genre needs.
These days, you can’t throw a rock at your TV without hitting some snarky detective cracking wise over this week’s batch of corpses (also, don’t throw rocks at your TV). We’ve got mentalist detectives, lie-detecting detectives, alcoholic, disabled, “True”, the list goes on.
But as the ABC network so astutely realized, audiences these days are obsessed with two things: Fantasy and Britishness. So they’ve mixed two parts Sherlock with one part Highlander into the usual cop show stew to get Forever – a solid B-minus effort that has a better chance than most at tapping into the Bones and Supernatural fandoms…if it can keeping standing out, that is.
The show stars Ioan Gruffudd – an extremely skilled actor who you will unfortunately recognize as Mr. Fantastic from those abominable Fantastic 4 movies from 2005. Gruffudd plays Henry Morgan – an immortal British doctor who, every time he dies, reappears naked in a nearby body of water with no explanation.
Working as a Medical Examiner for the NYPD, Morgan uses his centuries of experience to solve a weekly rotation of whodunits. He keeps a low profile in New York City with his elderly adopted son – played by a scene-stealing Judd Hirsch – while trying to understand the mysteries of life and death in his own eccentric way. There’s also another immortal, dubbed “Adam”, who’s ready to draw Morgan into a murderous cat-and-mouse game.
Comparisons to “Sherlock” lie heavy on the ground. With a lesser actor at the helm, all the rapid-fire deducing would be unbearably familiar, but Gruffudd lends the role enough wit and pathos to keep your attention. He ends up dying a few times per episode, which would get obnoxious if we didn’t get to enjoy a naked Gruffudd scampering about New York moments later (you’re welcome, ladies). He’s a solid leading man, silly, strange and charming in an off-kilter way that might just be enough to help us all forget Fantastic 4…maybe.
The supporting cast, on the other hand, is a bit off and on. Hirsch, as mentioned, is a joy to watch, whereas Morgan’s love interest/partner, played by Alana De La Garza, sometimes struggles to stand out. The rest of the cast is similarly facile. We’re used to cranky police chiefs and nerdy assistants and there just isn’t enough going on with these people to texture them beyond stock characters.
Luckily the show’s not shy about exploring the downsides of immortality, and that’s where Forever starts to find its legs.
Most of the episodes are peppered with some cheesy but fun flashbacks to Morgan’s previous lives, working as a medic in WWII or having a crisis of conscience on an English slave ship. Even more promising is the burgeoning subplot involving the villainous “Adam” character, who’ll likely be playing a Moriarty to Morgan’s Sherlock. If the show can keep developing this side of things we could have a fun new series on our hands. It’s just a shame that we have to sift through cop show limbo to get there.
In a world where TV series live and die by their hooks, Forever has got a chance at success. If you can look past the usual – and there’s a fair amount of usual – you might find something worth getting invested in.
After all, we might get sick of detectives, but suave Brits will never go out of style.
Catch it Tuesdays at 10/9 central on ABC.
(Cover photo courtesy of the Forever Facebook page)