Forever arrives on our screens with as little information about it as Amazon could get away with. All we knew in advance was that it was about a couple whose marriage has gone stale and that it starred Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen. In fact, Forever has been sold to us solely on its casting, trusting that people’s faith in Rudolph and Armisen would be enough to draw them to this small-stakes, low-concept, understated comedy. I hope it works, because this is a show that really deserves to be seen.
Creators Alan Yang (Master Of None) and Matt Hubbard (Parks And Recreation) set their stall out right from the off, launching us into the world of June (Rudolph) and Oscar (Armisen) via a wordless montage that beautifully sums up how they went from early butterflies to current tedium. There’s no need for detailed arguments or dramatic ultimatums, the numbing ordinariness of their life together is so recognisable and evident that they immediately become all too relatable.
When we do get dialogue, it’s instantly clear that Oscar and June care deeply for each other and are still very much in love. Their brief back-and-forth about a bass calendar is both very funny and a note-perfect introduction to both their boredom and their love. It’s even more touching that Oscar doesn’t take much convincing to break their routine and go on a ski-trip; he’s obviously keen to make June happy but lacks the imagination to come up with the suggestion himself, which makes their situation all the more heartbreaking. But Forever is about how much of the same thing can you endure before it becomes too much and the unknown that awaits when you break that routine. How can you be sure the alternative is a better option?
So much of the show’s success is down to Rudolph and Armisen, both of whom are immensely talented comedians but woefully underrated when it comes to more dramatic fare. It’s hard to imagine that still being the case after this. Rudolph, in particular, is more wonderful than ever, and that’s no faint praise. She can do more with a mumbled aside or a tear-filled eye than most actors can do with an entire monologue.
I’m loathe to give anything away about where Forever goes beyond the first episode and you’re perfectly entitled to use violent force on anyone who does. Amazon even went as far as to instruct critics on what could be revealed in advance reviews and what couldn’t. But this isn’t a show that’s about spoilers or plot twists, it’s more about allowing yourself to go on the emotional journey without knowing where the road leads. After all, joy is so much better and sadness so much rawer when they’re unexpected. Forever is sweet, it’s sad, it’s very, very funny and it’s one of the most curiously engaging shows in some time.
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