Streaming Pilot Previews: Forever

For the past several years, networks have begun to make previews of their pilots available online weeks prior to premiere dates. It’s a smart move since it generates buzz for good shows, and allows more time for course correction in later episodes if a pilot misses the mark. We’ll be checking in with these pilots as they become available. The Forever pilot is currently available on Hulu Plus or at ABC’s viewing website if you have a participating cable provider.

The Show: Forever

The Network: ABC

Premieres: Tuesday, September 23 at 10pm EST

Format: Hour-long mythologized procedural drama

Premise: Immortal Sherlock: M.E. Seriously, that tells you all you need to know about this show and whether or not you’re going to like it. Due to a mysterious accident, NYC medical examiner Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd, Ringer) can’t die, and his powers of observation come from over 200 years of life rather than sheer genius. He uses said skills to help troubled Detective Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza, Law & Order) solve murders while trying to solve the mystery of his own life – and that of the identity of the ominous stranger who knows his secret. Like Sherlock, Morgan’s even British.

My Take: It’s hard watch this pilot and not think that ABC wanted an entry similar to Elementary and Sherlock, but with their own slightly-supernatural spin. (This is a thing for ABC: see Once Upon a Time, Resurrection, 666 Park Ave. They really believe in magic over there; maybe it’s Disney’s influence.) Luckily for them, they’ve done a good enough job with casting and setting up the story in the pilot that the mythology seems plenty original to overcome the more derivative elements.

Gruffudd as Morgan is both the series’ greatest strength and biggest liability. Gruffudd is an accomplished British actor with plenty of television experience in the UK (as the titular character in the Horatio Hornblower series) who is more well-known to American audiences for his film resume, which includes the likes of Fantastic Four and King Arthur. He oozes charm from every pore, and his rakish charm makes his character’s annoying unsolicited displays of his observation skills more palatable to other characters. The problem is that the character is too good; this habit is his only real fault thus far. The character needs some more depth and shading quickly; he handles his predicaments with too much calm and distance, even for someone who’s been alive for centuries.

The simplicity and smoothness of the character aside, there’s a lot of potential here, especially with other characters and exploiting Morgan’s past. Detective Martinez isn’t just another professionally gifted woman who can’t handle her personal life; her trauma is real and needs working through. Morgan’s companion Abe (a fantastic Judd Hirsch, Numb3rs) is the only living soul who knows his secret – or so they thought – and their relationship keeps Morgan tethered to the present. Although not in the pilot, Lorraine Toussaint, hot off her lauded turn on Orange is the New Black, will play Martinez’s boss. And there’s that 200 year past to exploit; while the flashbacks in the pilot are a mixed bag, there’s still a lot of possibility in tracing Morgan’s history.

Forever has earned a provisional spot on my DVR based on that promise (and relatively weak Tuesday competition), and is one of the new shows in contention for coverage here in the fall. Think you want to hear more about it weekly? Let us know in the comments below.