The Brief: An ex-cop and a merry band of volunteers take over the search to identify Jane and John Does when the police exhaust their resources.
There aren’t many new procedurals this year, particularly crime based ones. Probably because the market is already pretty full with the franchises of CSI and Law and Order and to compete against those mighty forces you have to be pretty special. The Mentalist managed it last year, I don’t think The Forgotten will repeat the achievement.
The Forgotten has an adventurous concept and then immediately bottles it. First, the team of investigators are volunteers not police officers, which presents the interesting opportunity to use unorthodox techniques to compensate for limited resources . BUT the leader of the group is quickly revealed to be a retired police officer and happily makes use of the people and equipment at his old precinct. Also, if the case this week was indicative of the cases the police hand over because they’ve not got the resources to pursue it further, it’s a pretty depressing statement about American police departments.
Next up, there’s a strong message at the start that the group are not trying to find the murderer and solve the crime, they’re just trying to identify the victim, just find her name. Well that could be interesting, a procedural that ends at a completely different point of the story to other shows. Except, low and behold they don’t stop when they get the name, they keep going and find the bad guy.
That’s the problem with The Forgotten, it desperately wants to be something different, to claim its own niche in the crowded procedural landscape, but it’s not brave enough to actually stand on its own. That’s not to say this is awful, it’s pretty hard for me to dislike something just because it’s pretty much the same as a bunch of shows I watch and enjoy. It does manage to get some things right. Using a voice-over from the victim brought an additional haunting depth to the episode, reminding me of The Lovely Bones and the CSI episode Gumdrops which used the same trick.
Interestingly, it would seem the show has had some pretty major problems even getting to the screen. When I was searching for a video to put in, the only trailers I could find that weren’t region locked (grrr) had an entirely different lead actor. This trailer gives a good feeling for the tone of the show, but does give away the entire plot of the pilot and has Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks) in the role that’s taken over by Christian Slater.
I’ve never really been a fan of Christian Slater, always finding him a bit one dimensionally broody and not nearly as attractive as my classmates used to find him. Knowing that he came late to the show and presumably was re-filmed and slotted in explained a bit why I felt he lacked the kind of presence that the show needed. He didn’t seem to command the screen and the supporting characters like Mark Harmon in NCIS, or Tim Roth in Lie to Me for example. At the same time all of the supporting characters seemed to defer to him, wilting themselves into the background to make space, meaning when he couldn’t fill it, there was just a hole left behind.