Tuned In: CBS relaunches 'Unforgettable'

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You may have forgotten, but CBS uncanceled its 2011-12 police drama "Unforgettable" about seven weeks after it originally canceled the show in May 2012. That was more than a year ago and "Unforgettable" is only getting back on the CBS prime-time schedule tonight at 9.

Although summer is sometimes a burn-off season, in this case, a summer relaunch for the Poppy Montgomery show was always the plan.

Broadcast networks have been ramping up original summer programming in recent years, moving beyond burn-offs and reality shows. ABC and NBC have opted for less expensive acquisitions of foreign series ("Rookie Blue" for ABC, "Crossing Lines" and "Camp" for NBC) but CBS decided to go with its own made-in-America shows. Already its "Under the Dome" has been a solid performer. Now the network hopes to successfully relaunch "Unforgettable."


When: 9 tonight, CBS.

Starring: Poppy Montgomery and Dylan Walsh, above, and Jane Curtin, left.

Ms. Montgomery, previously a star of the 2002-09 drama "Without a Trace," returned to CBS in "Unforgettable" in fall 2011 playing Carrie Wells, a former police detective with a rare condition that makes her memory flawless. In the first season, she returned to police work, joining her ex-boyfriend, Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), on the police squad in Queens, New York. Her effort to solve the long-ago murder of her sister always lurked in the background.

Series creators Ed Redlich and John Bellucci said "The "Unforgettable" reprieve did not come with budget concessions attached.

"We said to [production company] Sony we wanted to make the same show. We didn't want to be making a low-rent version of the show," Mr. Redlich said. "CBS was very clear they wanted the same show and in a way they wanted a bigger show."

"It's more action-oriented," Mr. Bellucci added, "and more Manhattan-based. They specifically asked for it back as a summer show and we wanted something that feels exciting that summer viewers would want to see."

Of course, no TV show that close to death ever comes back exactly the same. Just look at ABC's recent attempt to retool "Body of Proof," which returned this spring for a more action-oriented third season. Ratings did improve, but not enough to keep the show from being canceled in May.

In tonight's "Unforgettable" season premiere, which producers referred to as a second pilot, Carrie and Al move to a new workplace in Manhattan. They're recruited to join a fictional NYPD major crimes squad with broad jurisdiction over cases ranging from kidnappings to robberies to terrorism.

Their new high-tech office is in a skyscraper and the pair report to a new boss, Eliot Delson (Dallas Roberts, "The Good Wife," "The Walking Dead"). There are two other new characters, former FBI agent Cherie Rollins-Murray (Tawny Cypress) and detective Jay Lee (James Hiroyuki Liao). These additions to the cast were accompanied by some deletions from the Queens squad with actors Kevin Rankin, Michael Gaston and Daya Vaidya departing "Unforgettable."

Even before the season two makeover, producers made adjustments through the first season, most notably by adding actress Jane Curtin ("3rd Rock from the Sun") as medical examiner Joanne Webster. The goal was to add a character with a lighter touch who could have camaraderie with Carrie and share some wisdom.

"We wanted to open the show up a little," Mr. Redlich said, "and back off being so tightly wound."

Ms. Curtin returns in season two. As a condition of moving to their new jobs in Manhattan, Carrie and Al insist on bringing Joanne with them.

"Joanne got thrown out of Manhattan and has a personal history with the new boss, so he's not excited to have her back," Mr. Redlich said. "They don't care for each other that much. There are some funny scenes between them."

The show's Achilles' heel in its first season was a dearth of younger viewers. Mr. Bellucci said he's optimistic that efforts to increase the action and high-tech quotient and create a summer-feel series may help draw younger viewers to a show with a lead "character with incredible gifts that she's almost a bit of a superhero with what she can do."

The show's serial storylines will be put mostly on the back burner in favor of stand-alone episodes. Any hints of romance between Carrie and Al will simmer rather than come to a full boil.

"By creating this new boss character -- we didn't have a boss in the first season -- it lets us unite the two of them in opposition to the new boss," Mr. Redlich said. "And it takes Al out of the position of having to be her boss so much."

As for Carrie's search for her sister's killer, that also will remain on the sidelines.

"It is part of the show but in a lesser way," Mr. Redlich said. "We come back to it in a very nice way in [the premiere] as Carrie debates whether to move to Manhattan and what that means for her quest to find her sister's killer."

"Unforgettable" will have 13 episodes with eight airing this summer. Producers don't know where the remaining five episodes will air. And they don't know what benchmark for success CBS will employ for a returning series in summer.

"We wonder a lot about that and they have never actually talked about it at all," Mr. Redlich said. "They just did incredibly well with 'Under the Dome' and we hope a little of that good mojo [rubs] off on us."

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Rob Owen writes this Sunday TV column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published July 28, 2013 4:00 AM


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