TV: Forever (Season 1)

What an odd experience I had with Forever, an Amazon series created by the writing team of Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard. At first glance, it’s a subdued, unassuming affair about a long-married couple—June (Maya Rudolph) and Oscar (Fred Armisen)—whose relationship is in a comfortable but confining rut. Oscar, a mild-mannered dentist, seems perfectly happy with the marital routine. June, however, is seriously ready for change. To that end, she suggests shaking up their annual vacation plans with something new: a ski trip. Oscar agrees, and the trip definitely shakes up their marriage—in deeply weird ways they never could have imagined.

I took a flyer on the pilot a few weeks ago and it struck me as an agreeable if slow cringe comedy carried by Rudolph’s brilliant performance of nuanced discontent. Armisen’s goofy persona, meanwhile, contributed an oddball Portlandia sketch-comedy flavor. It didn’t compel me right away, but eventually I went back for a second episode, when suddenly the show veers in completely unexpected and rather magical directions. I hesitate to explain too much, as discovering its unpredictable trajectory is part of the joy, but suffice it to say it’s like a kind-hearted, extended David Lynch dream sequence, with surprising tonal shifts, clever, surrealist worldbuilding, gentle humor, and scads of heart. Yang and Hubbard both worked on Parks and Recreation, and this new project has a similar sympathy for its characters, even as it picks away at their foibles and flaws. Rudolph delivers an exquisite heart-and0soul performance, and Armisen’s cartoonishly milquetoast support becomes quite winning by the end. There’s great support from the cast, especially Catherine Keener and Noah Robbins. In the end, it’s far more than the quirky, throwaway comedy it may appear to be at first glance. Forever is in fact a unique show that uses humor, fantasy, and psychology to explore a flawed but genuinely good relationship in a heartfelt, insightful way. Fans of The Good Place and Russian Doll take note: this show may be for you.

Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen in Forever
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