To watch the previews for ABC’s new series Forever is to encounter a feeling of déjà vu. From year to year, how many new fall series are, A) set in New York City, B) have a distinguished foreign actor in the lead role, C) focused on a cunning protagonist who has a unique advantage for a job as a top-tier investigator, and D) compete with a supernatural twist? The odds are that any fall show with a 10pm timeslot going into the premiere season will encompass at least one of the four traits outlined above. Forever just manages to be unique by not being unique, grabbing all of the above qualifiers.
Or, perhaps the reason for déjà vu is that the series bears a formidable resemblance to New Amsterdam. That short-lived 2008 series was set in New York City with a foreign leading actor (future Game of Thrones regular Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who worked as a homicide detective and was immortal. On Forever, the immortality “curse” also befalls Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd), a man who seems like a combination of Nathan Fillion’s Castle and Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock – except not as effortlessly charming or likeable as either.
For some reason, Morgan is also immortal. He works in a laboratory researching death while keeping details of his fatalities in a journal. Like any television character that uses their exceptional qualities for the sake of law enforcement, he also has a mission: he wants to unlock this supposed curse on his life and become mortal. This part is a stranger mystery than any NYC-area crime scene: why would any immortal man chase mortality? “I have fought in wars and seen more than my fair share of death,” he says in voice-over, but without much in the way of anguish or atonement. Forever’s pilot does not give much detail into this aspect, while Gruffudd is not tortured enough to convince us he needs an escape from the world as he knows it.
In the first scene, Morgan boards a subway, flirts with a Russian musician and avoids death when the conductor loses control of the train, killing everyone inside. Morgan’s body disappears from the scene, and then he is born again, rejuvenated in the city’s adjacent river. (Of course, he is nude at this moment of rebirth.) From there, Morgan relies on his friend Abe (Judd Hirsch, giving the series a pedigree it does not quite deserve) to keep his secret safe. Abe owns an antique shop and allows Morgan the space there to conduct his research.