The Joys of Maya Rudolph and "Forever"

As we’ve all been told endlessly, we live in the era of binge-worthy, peak TV — a seemingly limitless avalanche of content and must-see Golden Age shows. And while I can’t really sustain an argument otherwise, the breathless extolling of today’s high-quality television storytelling has led to a kind of sameness that has flattened this peak into a high-sea-level plateau. James Poniewozik discussed this last year when reviewing the Netflix series, “Gypsy.” There are a lot of really good shows out there, but they’re still bound by the conventions of TV (and in some cases, they’re just masquerading in the garb of high-toned narratives). Bret Easton Ellis has talked extensively on his podcast and elsewhere on the inherent qualities of stories made for a 2ish-hour big screen experience — the director-auteur’s medium that doesn’t rest on the comfortable scaffolding to which TV conforms. In his words: ‘The problem is that TV and movies are very different things. TV is very insistent on story and not on mood or atmosphere, and I think the most successful movies are grounded within a particular mood that TV doesn’t call out for.’

So, it’s incredibly refreshing to watch a half-hour show, made for the small screen, that does away with most of the trappings of episodic TV. Mood, atmosphere, and character take centerstage in Alan Yang and Matthew Hubbard’s Amazon Prime series, “Forever.” It’s a wholly unique show that plays cleverly with plot, constantly reorienting and undermining our expectations of how the narrative should unfold. It combines the sweep of movies, the absurdity of theater, and the intimacy of an 8-part television series to tell a story that mines the deep wells of comedy, existential angst, love, and human frailty. I won’t spoil much here. It’s far more rewarding to experience the show with no preconceived notions.

Maya Rudolph forms the backbone of the show in all its surprising and emotional turns. It’s a subtle performance from an actress who has built her career on hilariously broad, turned-up-to-11 comedy. Her journey taps into something universal (certainly for me), and exists in an altered reality that feels both allegorical and specific.

I feel like this won’t be my only post about the show, as the experience continues to sink in over the next few weeks. I might have to watch it all again.