CBS did a pretty good job this year of not diluting its fall schedule with new versions of its bread-and-butter: the cookie-cutter crime procedural. But, sure as Gibbs gets his man at the end of NCIS, we all knew one would sneak through. The show in question is Unforgettable (though I would prefer The Rememberist), starring Poppy Montgomery as a hot woman named Carrie Wells who runs around solving crimes. The "catch" is that Carrie is a former detective with a rare condition called hyperthymesia, which allows her to remember everything. Thankfully I don't have the same "gift," and one of these days I will forget this show ever existed. Hey-yo! Thanks, I'll be here all week.
Here's the setup: Carrie used to work for the NYPD, but now spends a lot of time volunteering in an old folks' home, impressing the patrons with her ability to remember the exact day Viagra hit the market (seriously, she did that). In the premiere, Carrie arrived first on the scene of a murder (as a bystander—the victim was found outside her apartment building—and was later called in as a witness by, conveniently, her ex-boyfriend and current detective Al (Dylan Walsh). He asked her to help with the case, and she used her ability to eke out a few details that detectives of normal memory would never discover. And because the show needs a series-long arc, Carrie's big goal is to figure out who murdered her sister decades earlier.
In addition to the typical looking-in-trash-cans police work you'd expect from a cop show, Unforgettable offers moments when Carrie uses her ability to find clues. But even that description makes the concept sound more exciting than it actually is, because when you boil it down, you're watching a woman remember things. For example, there was a bit in the premiere (video below) where Carrie was rememberizing the crime scene she just so happened to stumble upon, and if this is how the show is going to make its bacon with a new "twist" on the crime procedural, we may as well start digging its grave right now (Dead Pool candidate!). The scene involves Poppy Montgomery staring off into space A LOT, like when that guy from Seinfeld heard "Desperado," as she rememberizes herself in the actual scene. It's two Poppys on-screen, which is great for fans obsessed with redheads but doesn't do much for thickening the drama. The funny thing is, while she's in recall mode, she always sees something she didn't notice before. Don't you have to see something the first time in order to remember it later? I guess rememberizing is hard, you guys. I wouldn't know, I have the memory of a reggae musician.
Shows like The Mentalist and Psych use a similar gimmick, but when Patrick Jane and Shawn do their extreme-attention-to-detail thing, we feel as though we're solving the case along with them. When Carrie does her thing, we're simply waiting for her to remember something. And waiting. And waiting. It's the most passive talent a procedural protagonist has ever had, and arouses the same kind of excitement you feel when a friend is trying to recall the name of a restaurant he wants to recommend. Rememberizing just does not translate to television.
Plus, as easy as the fetching Poppy Montgomery is on the eyes, she's not much fun to listen to. The Australian-born actress produces one of the worst Americanized accents ever to hit our shores as she struggles to yank a Syracuse accent from her larynx. Combine that with questionable acting skills (witness her sheepishly say, "Go to Hell!" and gently slap her hands on a counter in frustration) and you've got a main character who's the equivalent of that book you read to put yourself to sleep. Carrie Wells may be hot, but she is not an interesting character. The rest of the cast is okay, but I feel especially bad for Kevin Rankin (Friday Night Lights' Herc, Justified) in the role of one of the many detectives who stand in the background in trench coats. He deserves better than this.
The super-memory device doesn't help Unforgettable rise above the rest of CBS' established procedurals. If anything, it hurts the show simply because its execution is so... boring. I wouldn't call Unforgettable bad, per se, but it definitely it isn't good. It's really just bland, the stale Saltine cracker of the TV world: You could eat it in a pinch, but you wouldn't want to make a meal out of it. Don't get attached; the show likely won't be around too long.
And now I'd like to point out that I didn't say "Unforgettable is forgettable" once! Yay me!