Thursday, November 20, 2014

Toss Together a Cup of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Teaspoon of Rizzoli and Isles, a Pinch of X-Files and Moriarty: ABC's Forever

Last week, I lamented the dearth of fresh, original programs. A Fall 2014 entry in the race to a complete first season on ABC is Forever, and after two episodes, I have set my DVR to “Record Series.” In other words, I was interested enough in the characters that I will commit to a once a week serving. Here’s why: the program is made of iconic stuff, but it has been stirred and brewed to something novel.

First, Dr. Henry Morgan has the mental acuity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock. Second, the series is not a standard police procedural with partnered detectives unraveling crimes; Forever is like the Rizzoli and Isles novels by Tess Gerritsen. A medical examiner and police detective forge a partnership.

The two recognize each other through a shared grief. Each has lost a beloved spouse. They also find life’s meaning and purpose in discovering the truth.

Detective Jo Martinez judges Dr. Morgan as honest, if eccentric, proving her own perspicacity, and her good judgment allows her to trust him. As Scully trusted Mulder in spite of agency derision, Detective Jo trusts Dr. Henry even though her own police supervisor warns her against doing so. 

Another nice twist in the program is the squad room supervisor featured in Forever. Like the menacing, political animals in The Wire, Forever’s police captain is all about data. Clearing cases is the Litmus test that leads to praise, positive evaluations, and promotions so Lieutenant Joanna Reece wants solved cases erased from the squad room board, but she doesn’t rant. Instead, she’s firm. She doesn’t threaten either because she’s not easily threatened herself. When Martinez pursues and solves a case that her Lieutenant warned her against pursuing on the basis of an odd medical examiner’s conclusions, Lieutenant Reece praises Martinez for trusting her instincts.
A Crypt in Georgia from 2011.

Forever even includes a nemesis like Doyle’s Moriarty, the criminal mastermind and foil to Sherlock. Dr. Morgan’s is apparently a kindred spirit whose knowledge of Dr. Morgan’s secret may endanger him. And that is the fifth element given a bit of a spin. Dr. Morgan has a supernatural talent. He cannot die. That is his secret and his purpose: to discover why he cannot die as he uses his many years on this earth to accumulate more knowledge about life and death affording him the genuius to solve crimes as if he had a sixth sense.

Forever boils all those elements together to deliver something borrowed, but not at all dull or cliché--at least not yet. (The episode airing November 18, 2014 tested me, however. I hope others are not as formulaic.)

Reading Challenge:

“Read” ABC’s Forever, the first two episodes, then sign on for more, if you like.

Writing Challenge:

Spin together some borrowed elements to invent something fresh.