Alibi V.23 No.38 • Sept 18-24, 2014 

Idiot Box

Immortal Kombat

“Forever” on ABC

In 2008 FOX ran a short-lived series called “New Amsterdam.” In it, a pre-“Game of Thrones” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau starred as a crime-solving New York City detective who happened to be immortal. He was an expert criminologist because he’d been living in Manhattan since the early 1600s. Between solving crimes he was on a quest to find the reincarnation of his “true love,” whom he believed held the key to his unwelcome immortality. The show was canceled after only eight episodes. At the time, author Pete Hamill alleged the show bore a striking similarity to his novel Forever. Now it seems like Hamill has another reason to consider a lawsuit, since ABC has come up with a fantasy crime drama nearly identical to “New Amsterdam” ... and it’s called “Forever.”

“Forever” stars Ioan Gruffudd (A&E’s Horatio Hornblower series, Fantastic Four) as Dr. Henry Morgan, an immortal New Yorker who works not as a detective, but as a medical examiner. Every time he dies, he comes back to life, appearing mysteriously in a nearby body of water. He’s been doing that for 200 years. All that kicking the bucket has apparently made him an expert at death. Hence, the job as an M.E. Viewers will immediately peg our hero as a supernatural knockoff of Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes he has the uncanny ability to look at clothing stains or shoe scuffs or slight abrasions on people’s fingers and instantly guess their name, occupation, place of birth and level of criminal guilt. It amounts to yet another element that audiences will find either comfortably familiar or boringly unoriginal.

Like Holmes he has the uncanny ability to look at clothing stains or shoe scuffs or slight abrasions on people’s fingers and instantly guess their name, occupation, place of birth and level of criminal guilt. It amounts to yet another element that audiences will find either comfortably familiar or boringly unoriginal.

In addition to solving everyday homicides and searching for his “one true love” (who will undoubtedly end up reincarnated and looking identical at some point), Dr. Morgan is forced to match wits with a mysterious person who knows all about his (totally unexplained) lack of mortality. In the opening moments of the show’s pilot, Morgan survives a deadly train accident which kills everyone else on board. Turns out the accident was arranged by his mysterious enemy. ... And points to you if you recognize that as the plot to M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable.

“Forever” is reasonably well-shot and charismatically acted. Judd Hirsch (former “Taxi” star and the best part of Sharknado 2: The Second One) is a welcome addition as an antique shop owner who serves as our hero’s best friend/confidant. But far too many of the elements feel completely recycled and reassembled from other sources. (You can throw Highlander, “Forever Knight” and “Torchwood” onto the pile of “inspirations” as well.) The show’s most interesting aspect—the supernatural stuff—is kept mostly on the back burner. That leaves lots of generic CBS-style crime solving in which unlikely geniuses commit murder using the most exotic methods available, and even more intrepid geniuses figure it out in 45 minutes flat. The main character may be an immortal, but the show will be lucky if it survives half a season.

“Forever” premieres Monday, Sept. 22, at 9pm on ABC.