Forever: Déjà vu?

There is a deep irony running through ABC’s Forever. The show, a crime drama centering on a man who cannot die, already feels familiar and repetitive. That’s not because of the subject matter – the show actually presents that unnatural repetition in a fairly engaging manner – but because it feels like a sci-fi variation on ABC’s sister show Castle.

The man, Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd), stumbles through multiple lives, dying by various methods only to be reborn naked in nearby water (in this case, the Hudson River). In each of these lives, he obtains some variation on the medical profession, a New York City medical examiner in the latest incarnation. After dying on a horrible subway collision, Morgan meets Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza), a damaged yet tough NYPD detective investigation the disaster. It’s no spoiler to reveal that, by the end of the episode, he is her preferred crime scene medical examiner, setting up the on-going partnership.

There is a central mystery within the show: a mysterious caller who knows not only Morgan’s every location (and is conveniently able to reach him by phone at all times) but also his big secret, the immortality they apparently share. No matter how long the central mystery persists, the show is still build around the chemistry between the two leads, which gives it the unfortunate parallels to Castle. It also has unmistakable parallels to the 2008 FOX television show New Amsterdam. That’s a shame as Forever is, at least based on the pilot, a slightly more assured and accomplished show than either of its cousins.

That’s not to say this will prove to be appointment television. The show has all the trappings of standard network fare: strong chemistry between the affable male lead and no-nonsense female lead, midrange special effects, and crimes that are revealed and resolved within a single episode while potentially contributing to the overall mystery.

hirsch

A welcome surprise in the pilot is the presence of Judd Hirsch as Morgan’s confidant, Abe, who has a special connection to Morgan thanks to his unique abilities. Hirsch’s everyman style of acting goes a long way toward grounding some of the more fantastic elements of the show, an absolutely essential need if this show is to hit with the Castle audience.

My one nit with the pilot is with some of the writing. Because Morgan is able to die and return without end, the writers saddle Gruffudd, a fine workaday actor, with unfortunate comic lines referencing his plight.

For example, “Apparently, after a violent death,” Morgan decrees, “a man needs a period of time to wallow.” Or the real gem, “Hang me once, shame on you. Hang me twice…” I also believe at one point that Morgan said, “I’ve been practicing forever!” I could have imagined that last one though…

Aside from the occasional dud of a one liner, Forever is a good enough show to take in if you’re so inclined. One can only hope, though, that it finds a way to stand out from the crowd of similarly styled shows.

Despite Morgan’s abilities, television shows that die rarely come back.

Forever premieres Monday, September 22, at 10pm EST on ABC before settling into its normal time slot Tuesday, September 23, at 10pm EST.

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