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"Unforgettable" Review: Exactly what TV Needs: Another Boring Goddamn Procedural

By Dustin Rowles | Trailers | September 21, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | Trailers | September 21, 2011 |

“Unforgettable” is the latest criminal procedural in the CBS assembly line, another listless, drab cop show presumably created in an effort to make the network’s “NCIS” franchise appear decent by comparison. The only interesting aspect of the show is the condition around which the premise was built: Poppy Montgomery (“Without a Trace”) stars as a former Syracuse detective with Hyperthymesia, an incredibly rare condition that allows a person to recall autobiographical details with extreme detail. Given a date, she can remember the weather, what someone else was wearing, and who won a sports game on that day. There have only been 20 confirmed cases of Hyperthymesia, and Marilu Henner is one. She acts as a consultant on the show, and probably provides hair-dying tips to Montgomery, as well.

In the pilot episode alone, the creators are already shoe-horning Hyperthymesia into the plotline, but it’s not exactly ready-made for a cop show. In “Psych,” Shawn Spencer not only has a keen eye for small details that he observes in the present time, he’s capable of making deductions based upon them (not unlike Sherlock Holmes). I think that something similar is going on in “The Mentalist” (based on “The Mentalist” jokes made in “Psych”). But here, Montgomery’s character, Carrie Wells, only has the extraordinary capacity to remember the details of a scene, which comes in handy, I suppose if she’s an actual witness to a crime, as she is in the pilot episode. However, I wouldn’t expect that her character will be on hand to witness each murder she’s tasked with investigating. Therefore, I’m not sure how having Hyperthymesia is much more useful than photographing a crime scene. I will grant, however, that such a condition would allow for one detailed, comprehensive, and properly archived spank bank.

But CBS is not a network that allows logic get in the way: They’ll build a criminal procedural around anything, and then they’ll saturate the colors, dim the lighting, and ask its characters to give grim pronouncements with a humorless tone while foreboding string music plays in the background. Dylan Walsh plays a NYC detective that ultimately pulls Carrie back onto the force, and Walsh — the straight man on “Nip/Tuck” — is the more personable partner in “Unforgettable” and there’s practically no difference in demeanor between this character and the one in “Nip/Tuck.” Kevin Rankin (“Friday Night Lights,” “Justified”) is a clean cut junior detective (it’s always so bizarre to see him standing up), and there are some other bland-looking, symmetrical faces that play other parts that I’ve already forgotten about. I should note, too, that — because it’s required in the procedural handbook — there’s a running mystery surrounding the death of a family member, here Carrie’s sister. It’s apparently the only day in her life she can’t recall.

With the exception of the Hyperthymesia element, there’s not a lot of difference between “Unforgettable” and “Castle,” except in the leads. And without Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic’s legs, “Castle” would be a terrible show instead of a mediocre one. “Unforgettable” doesn’t have the benefit of Fillion; it has Dylan Walsh. If the pilot episode is indicative of the rest of the series, then CBS clearly got what they paid for.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.