TV Review – Forever (2018)
Four years ago, ABC premiered a short-lived series with the same name as this one, starring Ioan Gruffudd. It was about a man who has essentially an immortal existence. This was used as a crutch to prop up a rather weak, police procedural show or murder-of-the-week program. But this comedy, created by Alan Yang (Master of None) and Matt Hubbard (30 Rock), also centers on a person facing an immortal existence. Instead of a man, the focus is more centered on a woman and her marriage. However, like that ABC series, the premise is mostly an after-thought, or the science-fiction or supernatural elements are an after-thought.
There have been other independent films that have had sci-fi or supernatural premises that have been after-thoughts. The sci-fi or supernatural premises have basically been gimmicks or hooks to get people interested, only to leave them with a small or intimate drama that might seem ordinary or mundane, but is perhaps personal and artistic in some fashion. These independent films can be a clever way of tackling certain issues. They can also be frustrating for their bait-and-switch nature.
Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) stars as June Hoffman, an office worker in Riverside, California. She’s married to a dentist named Oscar, played by Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live). She’s been involved with him for over a decade and for those years, she has lived a very dull and very routine life. She quietly becomes saddened or angry about her life. She doesn’t lash or act out, but she does try to do new things with little to no success, which usually lands her back in her rut.
Despite the twists in the narrative and the introduction of supernatural elements, the core of the show is about June’s happiness, either what will make her feel joy or what she wants her life to be in order to feel satisfied. What one would assume is that the supernatural elements would inform the story of June’s happiness, except it doesn’t. Aside from one episode, the rest of the series is done almost as if the supernatural elements weren’t even there. In fact, the series could be done with the supernatural elements completely removed and it would change nothing. For me, if that’s the case, then I question why have those elements in it at all.
The only time the supernatural elements really matter is in Episode 3, which to me feels like a subtle homage to Beetlejuice (1988), but other than that, the supernatural elements have no significance in the slightest. It wants to be a high-concept comedy like The Last Man on Earth on FOX or The Good Place on NBC, but it doesn’t want to engage with its high-concept, certainly not as The Good Place does. The Good Place, a show in which Rudolph also appeared and for which received an Emmy nomination, really engages with its high-concept, informing its characters in tremendous ways. This series doesn’t do that.
Yang and Hubbard essentially critique the suburban, middle-class life in ways that aren’t new or in ways that aren’t that bold of a take. Basically, Yang and Hubbard’s critique is that suburbia can be monotonous or repetitive. It’s safe and polite or basically boring. Yang and Hubbard also critique marriage in that environment as one and the same. There’s a rejection of that suburban life to some degree and a rejection of traditional marriage, but then the series does an about-face and wants to land on an appreciation of June’s traditional spouse regardless of how boring it seemed like he was.
What challenges or affirms this idea is Episode 6, which actually is a total departure from the show’s premise and even structure altogether. It’s not such a departure if you’ve seen Yang’s previous series with Aziz Ansari. Master of None had its departure episodes. Episode 6 is in that same vein. It’s about two people having an affair, so as mentioned, it’s unclear if it’s meant to challenge or affirm the idea of rooting for June and Oscar’s marriage. In Episode 6, we get Hong Chau (Downsizing) and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton) in a beautiful and heartbreaking romance that if you don’t watch any other episode in this series, you should still watch that one simply for their performances.
Running Time: 30 mins. / 8 eps.
Available on Amazon Prime.