Is it possible to be able to live forever and not feel the affects of not being able to die? What would you do with the knowledge that you’ll outlive everyone in your life? That’s part of the premise behind ABC’s new show “Forever,” which had one man struggling with those questions daily without getting any real answers to them. The show did demonstrate some early potential, but it was squandered by a partially routine premise and familiar plot twists.
“Forever” followed Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) who was a New York Medical Examiner to the rest of the world, but he was truly keeping a powerful secret that would’ve put him on everybody’s radar if he wasn’t too careful. He has lived a full life and has died repeatedly in various circumstances, but he always managed to come back to life in a body of water. Some would find the gift of immortality to be a blessing, but Henry no longer thinks so. He’s been alive for over 200 years and has watched the people he loved most die right in front of him. Henry still mourned losing the love of his life, even though she’s been dead for many years. The only person who knows the truth about Henry’s secret was his good friend Abe (Judd Hirsch) who was a store owner that would always be there for Henry no matter what. Henry came across Abe when he was an orphan baby at the end of World War II and they’ve been together ever since for the most part. Due to the tragedies that Henry experienced, he had found it hard to get close to other people. At work, his colleague Lucas Wan (Joel David Moore) tried to be friendly with Henry, but he was always rebutted by him every time he asked to hang out him after work. In his spare time, Henry tried to research ways to understand his curse and find a way that his next death will be his final one. Due to his latest brush with death, Henry became a suspect after a train conductor was killed that led the deaths of 14 other people in a train crash. Since he couldn’t explain how he survived, he had to help Detective Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza) find the killer. They worked together to catch the man responsible before he committed an even worse crime, but Henry became the target of an admirer who was afflicted with the same curse as he was. Will Henry get the answers he wants or will he find another mystery that he can’t solve?
In terms of questions, the show posed quite a few, but the biggest one involved whether it had the staying power to last past one season. Unfortunately, the prognosis for this show looked to be a little murky after seeing the first episode. It doesn’t really help with the fact that many shows given that Tuesday night time slot tend to not last very long for various reasons (quality, poor time slot, etc.). The first episode should’ve spend more time having viewers get to know Henry and his predicament before launching him into a rather routine case. The police/medical procedure portion of the show has been done before and would’ve been better served as a secondary element rather than a main component of the series. Sadly, it also doesn’t help that the immortality procedural show was done before in 2008 by Fox called “New Amsterdam,” which had also followed an immortal man in law enforcement trying to find a way to break his curse. The only difference was that he knew how he was afflicted with his curse, while Gruffudd’s Henry had no idea why or how he ended up this way. Both shows had very similiar premises that even included one person knowing their secret and a possible but doomed love interest in the works. In order for the show to last, future episodes needed to be geared more to Henry’s past and the mystery to solving his curse. It would also help to bring Henry’s mystery groupie into forefront, because it would be an unexpected twist for Henry to have an kindred spirit in someone like him that could either help or hurt him. The show also needed to work on finding a much clearer tone of what it should follow. Viewers were uncertain if it was a whimsical comedy or a serious dramedy with a twist. Once that’s decided, viewers will likely know how to respond to it accordingly. Writers will also need to help build up the supporting cast in a way that doesn’t overshadow the main leads to help balance out Henry’s past and present worlds better. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, Gruffudd, Hirsch and De La Garza led the pack as they were the driving forces of the series premiere. Gruffudd’s Henry was a mixture of roguish romantic comedy charm and tragic hero who always seemed to lose out in the end when it came to finding a long term happy ending. He was able to make the routine scenes seemed interesting by making regular wisecracks with a twinkle in his eyes as a way to subtly charm viewers into sticking around to see what happened next. Gruffudd’s Henry seemed best served in his flashback scenes with the love of his life as she still seemed like she was an active part of his present. In a brief scene at the beginning of the episode, Gruffudd’s Henry was walking down the street when he saw a glimpse of her. His reaction went from excitement to utter sadness when he realized that he was only dreaming that she was there. Once he understood the truth, Gruffudd conveyed Henry’s sadness and frustration over being immortal. Hirsch’ Abe was the perfect embodiment of comedic relief. He was able to provide the right moment to make this insane premise seem somewhat plausible because his character wouldn’t have been there otherwise unless it was the on-screen truth. Hirsch also had a believable rapport with Gruffudd that made the first episode worth watching. De La Garza, on the other hand, had the more challenging task of playing the only seemingly rational main character on the show. She made Detective Martinez into a character that helped to keep the show on solid ground. The only problem was that she didn’t feel connected enough into Henry’s world. Hopefully, the show will make her privy to his secret if it has the opportunity to be renewed for more episodes, but it’s too early to tell what fate will be in store for this series just yet.
“Forever” premieres on September 23rd and airs Tuesdays at 10:00 PM on ABC.
Verdict: Gruffudd’s charm makes him an interesting lead, but he would’ve been better served on a show that could’ve put his on-screen charm to much better use.
TV Score: 2 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)