October 1, 2009

new show review: the forgotten

The Forgotten is a new crime procedural on ABC centered around a group of volunteer civilians called The Forgotten Network who investigate the cases of unidentified murder victims. The show had a late casting switch this summer resulting in Christian Slater as the lead. After his highly unfortunate failed series on NBC last season, My Own Worst Enemy, I know he's hoping this will be a more successful effort.

The pilot begins with Slater's character Alex, who we assume is a former cop, getting an assignment to investigate "Highway Jane" from an actual homicide detective named Grace (Rochelle Aytes). He transmits the message via text or email to the Network, which includes Candice the office worker (Michelle Borth), Lindsey the science teacher (Heather Stephens), Walter the phone company worker (Bob Stephenson), and Tyler the aspiring artist (Anthony Carrigan), who's joining the Network for the first time on a community service assignment after a graffiti arrest.

We learn that this is the Chicago-based midwest branch of a wider national Network, and they need to solve cases within 5 days of the police department giving up or the victim will be buried in Potter's field, and the case will be closed.

Naturally, everyone on the team has a role to play that's tied to their personality quirks. Alex is the mastermind. It's been a long time since I've watched Slater on a regular basis, so I need to get re-accustomed to his gravely whisper. From anyone else it would be annoying, but he gets a pass.

In the same vein as Angela on Bones, Tyler the artist is charged with recreating the victim through sculptures, which are creepily lifelike. He's your basic lost punk with a defensive edge. Nothing special in this performance. He looks like he's trying to do the Corey Feldman face. Walter the phone man might be my favorite just because he's unexpected. His role is sort of the grifter. He has an every man look plays the parts needed to find the right information...even though that mostly involves acting like a goof ball.

As for the ladies, Candice is all about the details and following the victim's story. She uses her all-American pretty girl charm to get what she needs. Her line delivery is a little too purposeful. Lindsey seems like the paper work and computer lady who searches data bases and follows more scientific leads. Lindsey seems the most invested besides Alex. She has some sort of past related to her husband.

The case leads them to track down the girl's name at a Goth club where she used to go. The search brings them to her apartment building where we meet none other than Brian Krakow (or I guess his real name is Devon Gummersall) who used to date her. But TV fans know we haven't found our guy. It's never the first suspect. The search eventually leads them to one of the victim's goth friends who killed her after learning she had been lying about who she really was.

In the end, we find out that Alex left the police force after his 8-year-old daughter who was kidnapped two years ago, which motivates his desire to find answers for these families.

The lighting and filming reminds me of a combination of what little I've seen of CSI (without the special effects) and Cold Case. They also do a camera trick similar to Cold Case where the victim appears in spots along their search. The closing sequence when the killer is caught is also really similar to Cold Case, which they probably should have tried harder to avoid seeing as the premise is almost identical. The victim narrates parts of the episode, which I could take or leave. Other than that, it's your typical single camera crime show with the suspenseful music.

My problem is, I've watched so many cop shows, I'm having a hard time imagining the cops never picked up on any of these clues or evidence. Are a group of civilians really better at this? They didn't have a sketch artist or interview the guy she was dating? Most of the leads they caught seemed a little far-fetched and lucky.

For me, a pilot needs to really grab my attention. For a show that is to be a crime procedural, the first case should blow you away. This one just didn't. I don't take that as a promising sign for episodes to come. Sometimes it's fun to watch mindlessly watch a mystery procedural, so I'll probably keep it on my DVR, but I didn't find anything particularly special about this one.


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