The latest addition to CBS’s crime procedural roster has a novel twist: Unforgettable is about a former cop with hyperthymesia (superior autobiographical memory) who rejoins the force after witnessing a crime and uses her powers of recall to solve cases. Few people knew about the rare neurological condition of unknown origin before 60 Minutes showcased it last December and revealed actress Marilu Henner as one of a handful of Americans to have it. (Henner was featured in Brain World’s Summer 2011 issue.)
According to co-creator John Bellucci, the idea for the project has been around for two years. “We based it on a short story by J. Robert Lennon called The Rememberer,” says Bellucci. “A very dark story about the life and career of a person with absolute memory.” He and partner Ed Redlich subsequently learned about the real-life cases, including Henner’s, and brought Henner on as a consultant to the show. “[W]hich took the project to a new level,” says the producer, explaining that Henner’s optimism, vivacity and ability to cope with her unique situation allowed them to add a lighter side to a character who struggles with relationships and is plagued by her sister’s unsolved murder, seen in flashbacks.
The show’s protagonist, Carrie Wells (Poppy Montgomery), originally became a policewoman to solve that crime but had a nervous breakdown nine years before we meet her. Now a civilian living in Queens, New York, she becomes a key witness in the murder of her neighbor, which reunites her with her former partner and lover (Dylan Walsh), the detective on the case, who asks her to stay on.
Carrie is also seen visiting with an Alzheimer’s patient at a nursing home, and the irony of that goes beyond a woman who can’t forget interacting with a woman who can’t remember. (We won’t spoil the twist.)
Bellucci likens Carrie to Sherlock Holmes, a character with extraordinary powers of observation and deduction but whose emotional and personal life is a mess. “She has a sense of humor and irony, but we also want to show the downside.”
Don’t be surprised if Marilu Henner turns up later in the season, either as someone with the same ability as Carrie or as a relative. Completely coincidentally, says Bellucci, “There’s such a remarkable resemblance.” >>*