If you haven’t been tipped off yet by the lack of much advance buzz about this coming slate of new fall shows: Not a lot of them stand out. Not a lot of them are even good.
Some, however, fall into the “meh” category: There could be hope for the future, or there could be more mediocrity. ABC’s Forever falls into this “meh” category, in part because it’s shockingly similar to New Amsterdam, a 2008 Fox series that wasn’t very good and didn’t make it past eight episodes. And partly because Forever just glosses over a couple of key issues viewers will want to address.
The series centers on New York City medical examiner Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd), who has been immortal for 200 years. So, yes, his current job is just one of the many he’s held in his never-ending life, but it might provide him some clues to his “curse” and why he can’t leave this mortal coil.
What we know about Morgan is that when he dies he surfaces in a body of water, nude. This could be a little nod to the ABC audience since Mr. Gruffudd is, as some of us say, still getting it done in that department. But it’s also conveniently a reference to him dying 200 years ago while defending a man on a slave ship (Morgan was shot and tossed overboard).
When we meet the good doctor, he’s on a subway train, having just charmed a woman with his impressive skills of deduction (honed after 200 years of just watching human behavior, apparently, plus reading lots and lots of books while bored). Something very bad happens on that train and, fresh out of the water and out of jail (you can’t just walk around NYC naked), Morgan is picked up by his trusted friend Abe (Judd Hirsch), owner of an antique shop in Lower Manhattan (antiques are old, get it?) and the only person to know Morgan’s secret — which is why he arrives with a fresh set of clothes. He’s been through this before.
The accident raises the suspicions of Det. Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza) but not Morgan’s nice but kind of clueless medical examiner co-worker, Lucas (Joel David Moore).
Unfortunately, the questions Morgan’s deaths (there’s more than one in the pilot) raise may be troubling to the audience because the show’s creator and writer, Matt Miller (Chuck, Las Vegas), was short on answers to some key questions when meeting critics this summer. Such as: Doesn’t anyone ever see Morgan disappear from the scene when he dies, given that he dies in public a lot? And: What happens to his clothes? Miller said whatever’s on Morgan’s body goes with him when he dies, but he always surfaces in water, naked.
At least there’s a hint that if people get too suspicious of Morgan, he and Abe pull up stakes and move. That covers the, “Hey, you haven’t aged in years!” angle. But the other stuff is still troubling, especially since Miller said the plan was just to sidestep it.
On the other hand, Forever is just a light, entertaining show. Dr. Morgan won’t die in every episode, Miller says, but every episode has a dead body. It’s a procedural at heart, and Morgan is a medical examiner after all. If you’re going to buy in to the notion that someone can be immortal, maybe nagging issues of plausibility are not your primary concern.
If so, Forever is an easy hour because Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower) is a fine, quite likeable actor, and the mystery-of-the-week procedural continues to be candy for viewers.
Just know going into it that explanation is not a key part of the series.