It took me nearly two weeks to finally work up the small-screen fortitude I expected it would take to sit through the pilot episode for Christian Slater’s second attempt at a television series in as many years. The good news? It’s better than “My Own Worst Enemy.” The bad news? It’s still a terrible show. Nevertheless, I’m not sure why I’ve bothered to review it — “The Forgotten” probably won’t make it to a sixth week before it’s cancelled (on Tuesdays, it’s the only scripted show that “The Jay Leno” show has beaten so far).
I can’t believe that this is what’s become of J.D. Of Hard-On Harry. Of Clarence Worley. He’s botoxed to the hilt, and reduced to a bad impersonation of his former self, which was once just a younger impersonation of Jack Nicholson. He’s got no charisma left. His trademark arched eyebrow has been erased by Botox. And there’s none of that devilish charm remaining. It’s pretty sad, really. The man hasn’t made anything worth mentioning in over a decade.
“The Forgotten” is the latest from executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who is not only responsible for some of the worst films in your local multiplex (G-Force), but half of your television schedule (“CSI” and its many spin-offs, “Eleventh Hour,” “Cold Case,” “Without a Trace,” and “Dark Blue,” to name a few). It concerns a group of amateur detectives who solve the John and Jane Doe cases that the police cannot. Slater plays Alex Donovan, a former cop who runs the task force. He was either fired or quit the police force after his eight-year-old daughter disappeared two years prior. She’s apparently his motivation to identify these unnamed victims, notify the family members, and track down their killers.
The rest of the crew have their own motivations, too. Lindsay Drake (Heather Stephens), who runs the network out of her home, is in it because her husband is a convicted murderer. Walter Bailey (Bob Stephenson), who works on telephone poles, likes the excitement of it. Tyler Davies (Anthony Carrigan), who is a sculptor, is doing it to fulfill his community service. At least his character is a first for a procedural — who’d have thunk there’d be a need for a sculptor in police work (he’s their version of a sketch artist, only his sketches are in 3D).
It’s remarkable, really, just how dull “The Forgotten” is. Based on the pilot episode, it seems to be a show about amateurs passing out flyers, asking a lot of questions, and following improbable leads toward improbable conclusions. In the first episode, they finally figure out the victim’s identity only to learn that it was a stolen identity. They eventually discover that she was a teenage runaway whose friend killed her when she decided to go back home. “I can finally sleep tonight,” the victim’s mother says. “I’m grieving now, but at least I’m not worrying anymore.” Fantastic.
The whole show is also framed by a narration device, similar to The Lovely Bones, where the victim is speaking from beyond the grave, hoping that she can leave this world with an identity. It’s lame. It’s hopelessly lame. The characters are blandly attractive but otherwise generic. Every other line is a cliché. There’s not an ounce of humor. And not even the cinematography lives up to the other Bruckheimer shows. But in the end, the biggest problem with “The Forgotten” is that it’s simply dull. It’s got about as much character as Christian Slater’s forehead.