Poppy Montgomery can remember every tiny detail in her new crime drama on Nine, a series which owes a debt of gratitude to The Mentalist.
Calling a TV drama Unforgettable is quite a bold move. It lends itself to all sorts of headlines from critics if it doesn’t perform.
The title is probably the boldest thing about this CBS police procedural, with the majority of the show planted firmly in familiar territory.
The opening episode isn’t exactly unforgettable, but it does manage to pitch itself confidently at those who are a fan of the genre.
Australian actress Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) plays Carrie Wells, a New York woman who has hyperthymesia, which allows her to remember every detail that has crossed her path. From the pill dosage that an elderly man has popped at the nursing home where she volunteers, to each episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (the poor thing!), nothing gets by her.
Apparently there are only a handful of people in the US who have the skill. Presumably they differ from the handful of mathematical smarties who have inspired Numb3rs and the observant tricksters that gave rise to The Mentalist. I’m guessing those Medium psychics also number a few more.
Finding a point of difference in this crowded genre is the real challenge, but having two strong leads in Montgomery and Dylan Walsh (Nip / Tuck) as Det. Al Burns surely helps.
When Wells discovers a slain body at her apartment block, Burns and his team are called to attend. It turns out both have a past, but let’s leave the rest of that for the episode.
Like Patrick Jane in The Mentalist, Carrie is lured into assisting the cops solve the murder by employing her powers of memory. Flashback scenes are used to visualise her recall. Reliving the moment she stumbled upon the body we watch Carrie watching herself, literally, as she picks up on the telltale signs she missed in the moment of panic.
These replay scenes, which will obviously become a mainstay across the series, work quite well and the viewer may enjoy playing detective, identifying key clues in scenes they have seen before.
Walsh impressed with his melodramatic performances on Nip / Tuck but here he is denied any moments of humour. Instead he works hard at being serious cop, with flashes of emotion. Count the number of times he asks Carrie “are you ok?” when she is deep in recall.
The plot is fairly routine, right up to the moment when Carrie foolishly puts herself in a moment of jeopardy. She remembers a lot, but not the basics of self-preservation it seems.
There is also a backstory invested into the series in which her sister was murdered when both were children. This adds some depth to her character and should serve as an unfolding series arc.
Adding this to its schedule along with CSI, CSI: Miami, Prime Suspect and The Mentalist will see cop shows return to Nine’s evening schedule, but will there be enough appetite for all?
In fact Unforgettable owes much to The Mentalist, which works so well thanks to the understated performance of the charismatic Simon Baker. If the material is strong enough Poppy Montgomery could ultimately prove memorable in this role too.
I guess it was too much to shell out for the rights to Nat King Cole’s song of the same name?
Unforgettable airs 8:30pm Thursdays on Nine