TV

'Unforgettable' Cribs from the Once Good Bits of Once Good Shows

Lesley Smith

It’s cute when Carrie can recite verbatim a lover’s angry sarcasm from nearly a decade before. But only the first time.


Unforgettable

Airtime: Tuesdays, 10pm ET
Cast: Poppy Montgomery, Dylan Walsh, Michael Gaston, Kevin Rankin, Daya Vaidya
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: CBS
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Air date: 2011-09-20
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Where did it all start? Was it with CSI, with its door-busting forensic scientists who shouldered aside the police to take down the bad guys? Or was it earlier, with Fox’s The X-Files and Millennium?

At some point, conventional cops had to took a back seat to the specialists. And now, they're everywhere -- the psychics and psychologists, the novelists and psychopaths with a moral code -- picking up the slack for an unimaginative, often downright dopey police force. It's law and order via science or, just as often, para-science. Police officers are relegated to bureaucratic duty, such as snapping on the handcuffs or closing the car door on a chastened culprit. From an intellectual point of view, television’s celebration of the untapped potential of the human brain should be a cause for celebration. Artistically, however, it fills more and more TV hours with less and less.

The latest contender in the smarter-than-the-cops stakes is Carrie Wells, played by Poppy Montgomery in CBS’ Unforgettable. She's a former detective cursed with hyperthymesia, the inability to forget anything. She left the force when Syracuse PD shut down the case on her murdered sister, and, in the premiere episode, set nine years later, she still lives in the shadows of that tragedy. She makes her money counting cards in casinos at night. By day, she cares for elderly Alzheimer’s patients, which might have seemed ironic in the writers’ room, but on screen appears as shark-jumping bathos.

Unforgettable is a show cobbled together from the once good bits of once good shows. The paradoxical premise is, of course, designed for viewer empathy: the woman who can remember everything but the day her sister was murdered. The protagonist scarred by the death of a sibling is so hackneyed it warrants an entry on tvtropes.org, the Dead Little Sister: "the traumatic, disillusioning event that pulls many heroes into angsty cynicism." Hmm... that seems to fit.

Then there’s the charming ex-partner and lover Al Burns (the ever-reliable Dylan Walsh), who is set up in the premiere episode for that other staple of long-form episodic drama, the "will they, won’t they?" romance plot. As predictable as Al may be, he's surrounded by characters designed to show even more regular "diversity" casting: the older cop Costello (Michael Gaston) and a rookie, Saunders (Kevin Rankin), both white males, are joined by the currently fashionable non-specific minority, in this case a woman (Daya Vaidya). Screen time that might have allowed for character development is spent mostly on yet another curse of the so-called unconventional crime-solver, the slow motion sequence, either bleached of color, or oversaturated, in which the protagonist experiences a flashback, a vision, a mind-meld or visual insight into the case.

Unforgettable squanders time on not one but two such devices, repetitive flashbacks to fragments of the day Carrie’s sister was murdered, and glacial slo-mos of crime scenes where Carrie walks, sometimes twice, from different angles, through events the audience has already seen. In The Mentalist or Lie to Me, the pay-off from such repetition is often clever, catching the audience unawares. But in this premiere, smart audiences will have already worked out what Carrie saw long before she does. The same might be said of the solution to the risible mystery that acts as the pretext for all this wasted effort.

Like Jill Hennessy before her, Montgomery has left behind a taut ensemble show that underused her talents. And like Hennessey, she deserves richer material, as does director Niels Arden Oplev, who brought the first and best of the Stieg Larsson adaptations, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, to the screen. In his hands, this premiere unrolls as one of the best-looking openers of the fall season. His images incorporate an elegant, naturalistic palette, and scenes are choreographed to capitalize on his protagonists’ comfort in front of the camera.

But these highlights are scant, and can't save the script from itself. It’s cute when Carrie can recite verbatim a lover’s angry sarcasm from nearly a decade before. But only the first time. When the team accompanies Carrie to her first walk-through of a crime scene, the Saunders mutters that he’ll leave "if there’s any chanting." He could have become the witty skeptic on the team, but he melts quickly into admiring obscurity. One can only hope that actors and director have good work lined up, and solid exit strategies in place. For if ever a show sounded the death-knell of a subgenre, Unforgettable is it.

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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