Television certainly has come a long way, hasn’t it? From being seen as a threat to the film world when it was introduced in the 30’s television has evolved into a unique media that is home to many different forms of storytelling, the most popular today being the serialized story format. Dramas like Breaking Bad (2008 - 2013, Gilligan) and Sons of Anarchy (2008 - 2014, Sutter) are created with the idea that the story will end. Each episode will advance the over-arching plot of the series and lead inexorably to the finale where a (hopefully) satisfying resolution to the story will be offered. Dramas, Police Procedurals, and even sitcoms have begun to take on this format of storytelling.
In the face of this, Forever (2014, Miller) seems to be several years too late, a series from a bygone era where all you needed for a show to be successful was a quirky bunch of entertaining characters with decent chemistry solving mysteries with an extra twist thrown in to make it stand out from the other shows with the same formula. After all it worked for Magnum PI, Quantum Leap, Dukes of Hazzard, and many others, why not here? And that’s the thing. It does work. It works well. I’m not sure what I was expecting tuning into this program, but I was surprised at just how charming and, I hate to say it, quaint it was.
Of course what I just said also describes some other very popular shows of more recent years such as Psych (2006 - 2014, Franks), Monk (2002 - 2009, Breckman), or Criminal Minds (2005 - present). But those shows set themselves apart in ways other than relying on the charisma of the leads and the quirkiness of the premise. They took risks, they pushed the envelope, they got messy. Psych pushed boundaries with its fourth wall breaking humor. Monk combined humor and pathos by introducing us to a truly disturbed main character. Criminal Minds has kept audiences hooked with a combination of fascinating psychological profiles of serial killers, and Intriguing story arcs on par with more serialized shows. From what I've seen, Forever plays its premise very safe.
A brief, the plot is that Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is immortal. He has been alive for 200 years, appearing to be exactly the same in physical appearance as the night he was first killed. Every time he dies from a mortal wound or disease, he wakes up in water, naked and alive. Since his last death, he has been working as a medical examiner for the local police department, surrounded by a kooky supporting cast and armed with his keen deductive skills. Now up until that last sentence my summary conveys a lot of intrigue, almost like Life on Mars (2006 - 2007, Graham, Jordan, and Pharoah) or Once Upon a Time (2011 - present, Kitsis, and Horowitz). There is a mystery to solve. A supernatural or science fiction element is introduced. Elements of Steampunk, shades of Tuck Everlasting (1975, Babbitt), and potential for great story arcs and themes in the future. But then the last sentence gives the show a much safer, much more "tried and true" feel.
Too be honest, I really enjoyed the show. This is a show where you don’t have to feel intimidated coming into the series on a random episode. No extensive backstory is needed when the protagonist is a likable, handsome guy, who gets through the day by just being charming and being able to run faster than the crook. It is fun, interesting and really non-threatening to children, parents, and most importantly the network, which would be fine, if this was the 80’s. Unfortunately these days most people don't watch TV casually anymore. most obsess over our favorite shows, binge watching them to catch up on storylines before a newest episode. TV shows are no longer savored, they are devoured like a banquet set before a starving man. Even the advertisers know it. The commercials for Sean Bean’s new show Legends (2014, Gordon, Nachmanoff, and Bomback) claimed outright that the show would become “your new obsession.” In an atmosphere like this, I find it hard to believe that a show that seems, like its protagonist, to be out of its own time will survive.