02/08/2015 10:11 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

"Forever" Needs a Fact Checker

I'm a big fan of crime shows because I write a mystery series and I used to be the crime fiction reviewer for The Detroit Free Press. I've also taught crime fiction at Michigan State University.

There's lots of repetition on TV, so each new season I look for something with a different spin. Forever sure has it: the lead character (who also narrates) can't be killed. He's also a New York City medical examiner with the insight of Sherlock Holmes, and he's played by the dashing Ioan Gruffudd who has a killer English accent and puppy dog eyes. He's dynamic, funny, and utterly convincing in the role of Dr. Henry Morgan. He's brilliant, but he's world-weary.


The show's premise is fantasy: every time Morgan is stabbed or shot he winds up in the nearest body of water reborn--and nude. But what surrounds this core is scrupulous forensic reality and the reality of police work and life in New York. Or so it seems.

In one episode a gingko leaf was a clue and it led the team to the Cobble Hill neighborhood because that was supposedly the only place in New York where they grew. Dead wrong. They're among the most common trees in New York. And New Yorkers know it, too, because while ginkgos are pretty, the female trees have fruit that stinks.


Much more seriously, the character played by Judd Hirsch is a survivor of Auschwitz and unbelievably, the episode where he first appeared showed him as an infant with a tattoo. Infants were not tattooed at Auschwitz; they were destroyed. It's not just sloppy to subvert the facts of an extermination camp at a time when the survivors are dying off rapidly and Holocaust Denial is booming. It's shameful and grotesque.

Forever has a strong female lead, generally good scripts, and Gruffudd's opening and closing reflections are often thought-provoking. But I wonder if the fact that the show is based in fantasy has made the writers lose their grip on reality and decide that whatever they think needs to be real for the show is real. That's not creativity, that's bad writing.

Lev Raphael is the author of The Edith Wharton Murders and 24 other books in genres from memoir to historical fiction.