Television Review

A motley crew pursues where the police have given up

Christian Slater’s band of civilians of various stripes works to identify remains forgotten after Chicago police close a case. Christian Slater’s band of civilians of various stripes works to identify remains forgotten after Chicago police close a case. (Adam Taylor/Abc)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / September 22, 2009

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ABC’s new crime drama “The Forgotten’’ starts with voice-over narration by the dead victim, a nameless young woman whose body lies in a wooded area. It’s reminiscent of the novel “The Lovely Bones,’’ which is told by a murdered girl looking down on her friends and family. “I was on my way somewhere,’’ the “Forgotten’’ voice says. “I had plans, dreams. I had people who loved me.’’

This poignant tone runs through the “Forgotten’’ premiere, tonight at 10 on Channel 4. The series is yet another TV procedural by producer Jerry Bruckheimer, alongside Bruckheimer’s “CSI’’ shows, “Cold Case,’’ and “Dark Blue.’’ But it has an emotional element, an undercurrent of sorrow, that gives it some distinction. The “Forgotten’’ sleuths are working to identify those bodies the police have given up on, and the show repeatedly invites us to feel sad for the lonely bodies that have been separated from their names.

The “Forgotten’’ team members, led by Christian Slater’s Alex, aren’t cops. Alex is a former cop (no doubt his history will be revealed over the season), but the others are amateurs playing gumshoe. Candace (Michelle Borth) is a bored office worker looking for excitement; Lindsey (Heather Stephens) is a science teacher atoning for her husband’s sins; Walter (Bob Stephenson) is a goofy phone company worker who desperately wants to be Detective Andy Sipowicz from “NYPD Blue.’’ And the requisite rookie is Tyler (Anthony Carrigan), an aspiring artist.

I liked this show, more or less, not least of all because the investigators - they call themselves “The Forgotten Network’’ - aren’t especially angst-ridden. There’s something mildly cheerful about them, perhaps because they are all choosing this work rather than fulfilling their professional duties. And Walter, who has probably seen too many Bruckheimer crime dramas on TV, is out-and-out comic relief. Slater does some moping as Alex, but more often he acts like a cheerleader for the group, reminding it of its importance.

I also appreciated the specificity and vividness of the Chicago locale. Just as the “CSI’’ shows are steeped in their cities, “The Forgotten’’ rarely lets us forget where it’s taking place. Sure, tonight’s case of the week is solved thanks to a few ridiculous leaps in logic. Too many of the writers of these shows disrespect viewers by jumping across some gaping holes, giving us too-clever crime-solvers and too many convenient coincidences. And if you’re not a fan of procedurals, “The Forgotten’’ won’t change your mind. But there’s plenty here to satisfy those of us who definitely are.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at For more on TV, visit

THE FORGOTTEN Starring: Christian Slater, Rochelle Aytes, Anthony Carrigan, Michelle Borth, Bob Stephenson, Heather Stephens

On: ABC, Channel 5

Time: Tonight, 10-11

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