ABC’s Forever has a simple premise: Dr. Henry Morgan is a New York City Medical Examiner, and he can’t die. He’s over 200 years old, and every time he suffers from something that should kill someone, he appears in water, completely unmarked, except for a bullet wound that killed him the first time. Having been around for so long, Morgan has picked up a few tricks along the way, including teaching himself to observe like Sherlock Holmes, and diagnose cause of death like Dr. House.
The pilot episode opens with some irritating narration that is mercifully short-lived. Seriously, I’m tired of listening to fictional characters who are whining about living forever. Really, Dr. Morgan, cry me a river. At one point, we have the obligatory line about “You can’t die, but you haven’t lived in a long time.” Really, who writes some of these lines?
Anyway, the narration is quickly cut off by the subway train collision that kills him for the first time this episode. The train crash is investigated by the impossibly stunning Detective Jo Martinez (played by the impossibly stunning Alana de la Garza). When they discover that the train driver was poisoned, since Morgan walked away from the crash without a scratch on him, Martinez focuses on him as part of the investigation, leading to a surprisingly unforced relationship between the two.
Morgan uses his ability to come back from the dead to figure out what the poison was, which leads to how it was delivered to the train driver, which leads to a fingerprint, etc. It’s surprisingly more of a police procedural than The Mysteries of Laura is.
The short version is, it works. You’d think with a premise this goofy, it would be strange and unworkable. But the chemistry between Martinez and Morgan is unforced, and not as obvious a future pairing as, well, most CBS tv shows are. However, this is ABC, which has found great success with the Castle model of, at best, “mutual respect at first fight,” slowly building up the potential for a relationship rather than dancing around it for a hundred episodes.
Despite knowing that our male lead can’t die doesn’t actually cut down on the tension all that much. Considering that the other people around him are fragile, the pilot manages to keep other people in peril while not turning Martinez into some sort of damsel in distress.
Another part of this cast is the ever-fun Judd Hirsch, who plays “Abe,” who we find out (SPOILER) was actually adopted by Morgan from a concentration camp in World War II. However, this is the part of the story that really stretches credulity. When Abe is first found, he was a baby, and has a tattooed number on his arm … funny, the Nazis didn’t seem like the type to just hold onto a baby for later extermination, but far be it from me to quibble with a touching plot point.
A subplot of the show involves a mysterious person who taunts Morgan with a simple “I know your secret” routine. (SPOILER) The mysterious voice on the phone states that he is another immortal, which will lead any nerd to hear that and proclaim THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!
Oddly enough, I like this show. Forever is fun, it’s actually kind of smart, and has set up two people that I can believe are people. Okay, Martinez is unbelievably beautiful for a cop, but I’ve seen military women who are just as pretty, so pretty cops shouldn’t be too incredible. The banter is well done, and all of the characters have good chemistry. I came away liking these folks and giving a damn about what happened next.
Right now, this is my second-favorite new show.