Vital Signs…DVR or DNR
Tuesday @ 10:00PM, ABC
Premieres September 22nd (with replay on regular night, September 23)
Henry Morgan cannot die. He does not know why, so he devotes his life to the study of dead bodies and chronicles his own deaths in detail in order to better understand this curse. This existence usually involves a lot of moving around, but things have been pretty steady in his current life as New York City Medical Examiner. That is, until he is the victim of a subway crash that kills everyone on board except for himself, and he quickly becomes the police’s prime suspect in the driver’s murder. Add to this a mysterious caller who seems to know too much about Henry and his curse, and Henry starts to think about skipping town. In the end, Henry manages to dodge suspicion, find the real killer, and become the dedicated ME for Detective Jo Martinez.
Familiar Faces: Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Ringer) stars as our immortal hero. The always enjoyable Judd Hirsch (Taxi, Numb3ers) steps in as Henry’s only friend, Abe, who is in on the secret, and Alana De La Garza (Law and Order, CSI: Miami) plays the suspicious cop turned partner, Jo Martinez.
This Reminds Me: Of Rizzoli and Isles and Sleepy Hollow. You have the ME who solves crimes with a cop. You have the historical backstory along with the questions of how and why this man can be in the modern world today. You would think two popular television shows would be even better when combined, but the math doesn’t quite work out that way. Maybe with more time to settle in?
Other Aspects to Consider: As a medical examiner and detective, Henry’s methods are a bit unorthodox. Like when he needs to figure out what type of poison was used, so he infects himself with the blood to experience it himself. Much faster than waiting for toxicology results. These methods add a bit of interest to the proceedings, but are pretty far-fetched. Of course, we are watching a show about a man cursed to eternal life, so what were you expecting?
Also of interest is the dialogue, which runs hokey at times, poking much fun at death and Henry’s predicament. Multiple quips about dying had me guffawing far more than I should have (such as “Hang me once, shame on you; hang me twice…” take on a classic), but I imagine such clichéd utterances could wear thin with other viewers pretty quickly.
Out of everything, it’s Henry’s over perceptiveness, offered with little to no reason, that bugged me the most about the pilot. I didn’t know that living a few centuries would give you Psych-level observational skills, but the early minutes of the episode tried to convince me that Henry could easily turn a lack of callouses and a slightly damp collar into a highly accurate narrative about a complete stranger. How that extremely creepy pick-up tactic worked is beyond me, so it was good luck when that entire scene was cut short with the jarring subway crash. Hopefully this skill was only for the sake of the pilot; advanced knowledge of medicine and botany are fine by me given the amount of time he has had to study up and should be enough to aid his new police gig.
Remaining Questions: Every time Henry dies, he is reborn, naked, in water. That makes for some interesting walks through Central Park. I hope that one of the questions writers answer quickly about the curse is what happens to Henry’s dead body. Does it just disappear? What if someone is around to watch it happen? And beyond the obvious symbolism, why is he transported to water every time? What happens to his clothes? Some many questions, and that only scratches the surface of the mythology surrounding his curse.
And while we are at it, how long can this partnership last before Detective Martinez finds out Henry’s secret? There were many a close call already in the pilot.
Speaking of which, is Detective Martinez even necessary? I did not identify at all with De La Garza’s Martinez and found little to no chemistry between her and Gruffudd. Personally, I think he would be better off on his own or crusading with the likable Abe instead.
The Verdict: On life support, but don’t pull the plug just yet. You have your medical dramas. You have your cop dramas. You have your medical/cop dramas. And now we have the latter with a supernatural twist. Despite my love of all of these categories, when I first heard the premise of Forever, I thought I would pass for sure. It just seemed like we had finally run out of things to make shows about so they were trying desperately to make something new out of something old. But I am glad I gave this show a chance, because it worked. To a degree. Gruffudd is charming and joyfully morbid as our hero. I also quite like his accent. But he can only carry the show alone for so long. What needs to develop is the relationship between the crime-fighting pair and a more concrete mythology to get viewers hooked on this particular show, given the dreadful abundance of similarly themed procedurals. If De La Garza steps up her game in later episodes and viewers receive a few quick answers to Henry’s plight, then we have a steady show. If not, then it will be a mid-season cancellation.