Fred Armisen (“Big Mouth”) and Maya Rudolph (“Big Mouth”) are probably the single most prolific duo one could dream up in the world of TV comedy. Along with Alan Yang of “Parks and Recreation” and “Master of None” fame, they team up wonderfully in “Forever,” a short, easy Amazon series that tackles some familiar themes with a surreal touch.
The show launches into the exposition of Oscar (Armisen) and June’s (Rudolph) relationship immediately, telling the story of their entire lives together in the space of a short montage minimally backed by Miles Davis’s “It Never Entered My Mind.” Rudolph and Armisen’s vast experience in stage and sketch comedy is in full display, with their expressive facial and bodily expressions (as well as Armisen’s trademark awkwardness) replacing the need for any other forms of dialogue. Their story is a well-worn one (albeit told in the space of roughly five minutes). After years of marriage, the pair finds their relationship stale and detached, without the spark of young love.
Despite the façade of contentedness with the state of their lives, their relationship has deeper problems, which June takes an admirable first step in repairing by suggesting the couple refrain from their annual fishing trip to go skiing instead. And then Oscar dies. Thankfully, the show takes only an episode to show how June grieves before she, too, kicks the bucket and joins her husband in the afterlife.
From this point, the show seems to take a familiar direction, focusing once again on the relationship between Oscar and June, except now in the afterlife. The afterlife depicted here is slightly less whimsical than “The Good Place” (in which Rudolph stars as well), but still provides a cast of memorable and hilarious side characters, including a young man who died in the 1970s and still uses terms like “orientals.”
Unfortunately, it is difficult to fully understand why the story is set in this world in the first place. The same issues that seem to be explored could just have easily been examined in the real world, and the situation makes the first two episodes — especially the second — feel superfluous. For the most part, the afterlife is exactly the same as the real world, despite a few quirks. It feels more like the backdrop of a surreal “Portlandia” sketch rather than a fully thought out one fit for a longer, multi-episode series.
Nonetheless, “Forever” makes for short, yet still worthwhile, viewing due to the overabundant comedic talent of Armisen and Rudolph. Somehow, anything these two actors do can somehow turn out funny. While Armisen’s character is much of what we expect from him, he and Rudolph maintain incredible chemistry, and their witty dialogue and interactions are constantly entertaining. The pair also exhibit moments of skillful dramatic acting as well, making the explorations of the progression of romantic love more effective.
“Forever” does not do anything groundbreaking and is certainly not the strongest work of its stars. However, at eight short episodes in length, it is a bingeable, entertaining watch for fans of the style of comedy that Rudolph and Armisen execute so effortlessly.