Pilotitis 2014: Forever

Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) adds to his medical journal on ABC's Forever.
Forever (Photo: K.C. Bailey / ABC)

ABC’s Forever stars Ioan Gruffudd as a medical examiner who’s an expert in death because he can’t die. Is this show worth checking out, or should it be left in the past?

Show

Forever, which airs a preview episode tonight at 10pm before sliding to its normal timeslot of Tuesdays at 10pm.

Premise

Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd), a medical examiner in New York City, has been around the block a few times, mainly because he hasn’t aged at all in the last two hundred or so years. Oh, and he can’t die. Well, when he does get killed, he ends up regenerating in the East River and adds the experience to his catalog of death. While detective Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza) investigates a subway crash (where Morgan goes from victim, to prime suspect, to ally), an anonymous someone threatens to reveal Morgan’s secret and starts a game of cat and mouse.

Lineage

Is it a spin-off? Is it “From the makers of…”? Is it the fifteenth version of this show this network has produced this year?

Who is Forever For?

Here’s the list of all the influences I could spot in just the pilot episode: House (Morgan is all about observations and pithy diagnoses. Also, British.), Torchwood (Inability to die. Also, British.), Sleepy Hollow (Guy trying to make it in this workaday world two centuries out of time. Also, British.), Taxi (Judd Hirsch plays Abe, Morgan’s sole confidant), Elementary (Snarky detective team. Also, British.), and the production values of a Hallmark movie. The good news: Forever draws from these elements favorably.

What Works

ABC isn’t a major player in procedurals, which is surprising given their track record with the genre. Castle is still bopping along just fine, while the network’s replay of Canadian series Rookie Blue and Motive do well enough for the network in the summer. Gruffudd and De La Garza have good chemistry, and Hirsch doesn’t feel out of place (though he didn’t have much to do in the pilot). Although Dr. Morgan would like to eventually leave this mortal coil, he isn’t obsessed with figuring out the hows and the whys of his condition. Any McGuffin that isn’t “HERE IS THE MCGUFFIN, DON’T FORGET ABOUT IT” is always welcome.

What Doesn’t Work

The Hallmark production values come across as super-goofy. There’s a moment where Morgan is trying to remember where he saw something, which results in a five-second flashback to some time in the 1920s which serves as an excuse to put Gruffudd in a dapper tuxedo. I guess that’s technically showing and not telling, but it’s an unnecessary affectation. The mystery in the pilot is fairly low-octane and Morgan is getting set up as a character who is never wrong, which is a dangerous game to play, writing-wise. My hope is that a less exposition-heavy episode will allow room for a false lead or two.

Does this pass the Bechdel Test?1

The pilot had only three female characters: a Russian woman who dies in the first five minutes, a woman from another era, and Martinez. I’m guessing a low likelihood of this passing.

Verdict

I’ll give this show three episodes to start. There are more things to like than dislike, though this isn’t high calibre television. There are plenty of trope traps that Forever can fall into—Will They/Won’t They, Infallible Genius, Bizarro Medicine2—but if the show can navigate the pilotitis pitfalls, Forever could be a fun diversion.

  1. 1. Two named female characters 2. have a conversation 3. about something other than a man.  
  2. Black Box may have scared ABC from going down that road, one hopes  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles

Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it “TV Camp.” After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv