'Forever' isn't the TV show you're expecting

The Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen starrer is filled with understated beauty

Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph play married couple Oscar and June.
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The set-up for Forever, Amazon’s newest half-hour comedy starring former SNL powerhouses Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen, is a married couple decides to shake up their annual fishing trip and try skiing. The punchline is a delicate and understated rumination on the value and drawbacks of monogamous relationships.
 
Yes, you read that right.
 
Forever, released two weeks ago on Amazon Canada’s Prime Video service, isn’t the show you’d expect from two performers who’ve made careers on their adrenaline-fuelled, live sketch comedy performances. Its eight-episode first season trades Saturday Night Live’s trademark high-octane laughs and eye-catching sets for long-gestating plots and subdued, suburban houses. 
 
But don’t worry; it’s also very, very good.
 
Rudolph and Armisen, who are also executive producers of Forever, play married couple June and Oscar. The show’s tone-setting opening sequence strings together vignettes depicting June and Oscar’s relationship highlights, from their first meeting and date to their engagement and respective job promotions. 
 
The montage is instantly reminiscent of Up’s infamous opening, where Pixar constructs a heartbreakingly beautiful portrait of an aging couple’s undying love within just a few minutes.
 
However, the eternal spark between our main couple that Up prepared us for begins to lose its shine in Forever’s version of a love story. The cute moments of brushing teeth together and celebrating a bowling strike are replaced by fishing, eating dinner, fishing again, and so on. 
 
The camera pans from one dinner scene to the next, unwavering in its left-to-right movement until it lands on June, trying to hide her boredom from a still-content Oscar. It’s a rare montage where time doesn’t pass by quickly. We can feel each excruciatingly plain moment of June and Oscar’s decades-long marriage.
 
The rest of the first episode, which chronicles the couple’s trip to a ski lodge, is filled with similar middle-ground relationship activities. 
 
Oscar and June banter with a sharp-tuned wit, but it’s obvious they’ve said it all before. They gleefully discuss the perfect way to spend a half-hour, but notably dismiss 30 minutes of sex as “too long.” The cracks in their dynamic are clear, even if June is the only one of them who sees it.
 
But after the first episode, Forever becomes an entirely different show.
 
To reveal any more plot details would spoil its magic, but Forever continuously reinvents itself over the course of its eight installments. Episode formats change on the fly, and stories abruptly begin and end in glorious fashion. As soon as you become comfortable with the show’s new form, it shape-shifts into a different one.
 
Despite Forever’s abundance of plot twists, the show never stops asking its characters—and by extension, its viewers—the same questions about the validity of monogamy.
 
Why should people tie themselves down to a single person when seven billion other ones roam the planet? Alternatively, how could anyone ever willingly let go of a person who could keep them happy indefinitely?
 
Rudolph and Armisen explore these questions in various ways over the course of the season. Don’t let their co-star billing mislead you—Rudolph is Forever’s crown jewel.
 
Both actors handle the show’s comedic side with ease, and Armisen knocks any joke tossed his way out of the park. It’s Rudolph’s performance, though, that does the heavy lifting. Whereas Armisen’s Oscar never truly rises into three-dimensional territory, the subtle multitude of emotions Rudolph’s June feels is palpable throughout. 
 
Even in Rudolph’s big comedic moments—including a showdown with a brace-faced ski-bully—you can feel her character asking herself how on earth she wound up in this monotonous life, and wondering whether it’s more wrong to stay or run.
 
If you’re looking for an SNL sister-show closer in tone and punchiness to 30 Rock or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Forever may disappoint you. 
 
If you’re okay with your jokes being coupled with deep contemplation on the idea of permanent romantic commitments, carve out an afternoon and give this wonderfully loopy show a shot.

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