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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
(written by Ed Redlich & John Bellucci; directed by Niels Arden Oplev; TRT: 43:41)
The network's description: "UNFORGETTABLE stars Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, an enigmatic former police detective with a rare condition that makes her memory so flawless that every place, every conversation, every moment of joy and every heartbreak is forever embedded in her mind. It's not just that she doesn't forget anything - she can't; except for one thing: the details that would help solve her sister's long-ago murder. Carrie has tried to put her past behind her, but she's unexpectedly reunited with her ex-boyfriend and partner, NYPD Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), when she consults on a homicide case. His squad includes Det. Mike Costello (Michael Gaston), Al's right-hand man; Detective Roe Saunders (Kevin Rankin), the junior member of the team; and Detective Nina Inara (Daya Vaidya), a sassy, street-smart cop. Being back on the job after a break feels surprisingly right for Carrie. Despite her conflicted feelings for Al, she decides to permanently join his unit as a detective solving homicides - most notably, the unsolved murder of her sister. All she needs to do is remember. Ed Redlich, John Bellucci, Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly are executive producers for Sony Television Studios in association with CBS Television Studios."
What did they leave out? It's based on J. Robert Lennon's short story "The Rememberer."
The plot in a nutshell: It's been nine years since supercop Carrie Wells (an auburn-haired Poppy Montgomery, more than up to the task) hung up her badge with the Syracuse Police Department. She's since relocated to New York City where she spends her days volunteering at her mother's retirement community, living off the money she makes from conning the city's various underground casinos. You see Carrie has a very rare condition called hyperthymesia, meaning she can recall practically every moment that's ever happened to her. Whether it's the weather, what she wore that day or what someone said to her, anything and everything is at her disposal. It makes her a great card player, not to mention a great cop. The latter duty however comes calling when her neighbor is murdered and she's the only witness.
Much to her surprise though the lead investigator is Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), her old flame from back in Syracuse. He knows she can help them find the killer but she's in no rush to carry a badge again. Like all special gifts on television they come with an accompanying curse. For Carrie, it's the pain of not being able to remember the one day she most desperately wants to: the day her sister was murdered. All that's left are bits and pieces, glimmers which haunt her the more she tries to use her ability. Nine years ago they turned her into an obsessed mess, who's to say they won't again? Al nevertheless manages to get her on board and down the procedural rabbit hole we go...
What works: It has the makings of a perfect CBS show. "Unforgettable" plays something like the love child of "The Mentalist" and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" as our tortured lead has the ability to literally walk through her memories, pointing out the details with microscopic detail. It's an extraordinarily clever premise, as Carrie can not only TiVo her way through that night's events but also zoom in and out on even the most innocuous details. But wait as they say, that's more: she can pull up conversations verbatim and account for the events on any given date, not to mention work a cocktail dress and heels like nobody's business. The end result however...
What doesn't: ...is that Carrie frequently winds up feeling like an infallible god. She does all the heavy lifting while Al and company - exposition machines/occasional quip makers Nina Inara (Daya Vaidya), Roe Saunders (Kevin Rankin) and Mike Costello (Michael Gaston) - sweep up after her. They don't really doubt her or challenge her, she's just right and they know it, making the suspense of the investigation come across as all that more flaccid. It's not their fault either as Carrie's ability is presented as all knowing and all seeing with no real boundaries - even the specter of their long-term effects doesn't feel like a legitimate threat. She's Superman juggling planets, solving crimes with ease, leaving the good guys and bad guys to feel like ants by comparison. Don't get me wrong, the seeds of another grand CBS procedural are here - strong lead, interesting hook, a new but not threateningly new way to drive the procedural machine - so...
The bottom line: ...here's hoping they bear fruit.