Coming to Start TV in January, the series Unforgettable centers on a reluctant homicide detective Carrie Wells, who gets pulled into the work after it turns out her impeccable visual memory comes in handy when it comes to solving crimes. The tagline on the show says it all: "She can do anything but forget."
To explain this special ability - where Carrie has complete visual recall that spans her entire life - the writers on the show diagnosed Carrie with a condition known as hyperthymesia. This is an actual condition identified my neurobiologists in the real world, and those affected by it can describe in vivid detail a remarkably large number of events in their lives.
Among those afflicted by hyperthymesia in Hollywood is a familiar face that any fan of 1970s TV will remember with near-perfect recall, Marilu Henner. The actress played Elaine Nardo on the critically-acclaimed series Taxi, joining an ensemble cast featuring Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Kaufman, Tony Danza and other stars who became TV icons after the series ended in 1983. For her part on the series, Henner was nominated for five Golden Globes, and she has continued working in television and movies since.
That includes a guest role in the Unforgettable episode "Golden Bird." In it, Henner plays Carrie's Aunt Evie, a glamorous but estranged family member who Carrie hopes can help her solve her sister's murder - the only memory that manages to elude her medical gift. It's a dramatic part and the actresses perform the complex chemistry masterfully, but what many viewers may not realize is that Henner played a much bigger part in the larger series than just this charged scene with her troubled niece.
On Unforgettable, Marilu Henner also served as a consultant, helping the writers portray a more nuanced character in Carrie Wells, based on Henner's real experience with hyperthymesia. These insights undoubtedly aided the success of the show, which stretched for four seasons and nabbed a nom at the People's Choice Awards for "Best New Drama" when it premiered.
We also have to wonder if Henner's hyperthymesia also helps the actress transport back to those days on the set of Taxi, laughing at the backstage antics of comedic talents like Kaufman and DeVito, getting tips from veteran actor Judd Hirsch, giving notes on her character to legendary TV writer James L. Brooks...
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