Finally Almost Human steps in to be a show that does most of those things really well.
The last one to do it was 2008’s Fringe. The dark, funny, action packed SciFi series ran for five seasons that changed, folded over on themselves, head faked the viewer constantly and managed to wrap up almost perfectly.
So it’s no surprise that one of the writer/director/producers of Fringe, JH Wyman, has come back with the next important SciFi TV series. Almost Human debuted, after a few delays, on Nov. 17, with a second episode the following night, to solid ratings and mostly positive critical reaction.
If you missed it, go catch up at www.fox.com and get ready for awesome.
The show manages to capture the cinematic possibilities of the genre, touch all the necessary head nods to Phillip Dick, and still be fresh despite the less than original premise of a robot trying to be human. The way it succeeds is the same way Fringe, Lost and Alias (all JJ Abrams products) did: by hiding the true originality behind a veil of a retread. Almost Human is about a robot trying to be human the same way Fringe was just a remake of the X-Files, Lost was about a plane crash and Alias was about a spy. The statements are more or less accurate, but don’t come close to describing what’s going on.
In Almost Human, the excellent and underrated Karl Urban plays the hard boiled and (mostly) human cop John Kennex, who is returning to the force (with a robot leg) after almost dying in an explosion. Michael Ealy, to this point mostly known for his inability to smile and for his role in the prematurely cancelled Sleeper Cell, plays the android cop partner who is of a discontinued model, faulted for its unpredictability and overly human nature.
This buddy plot formula- cranky grizzled human cop and _____________ (insert opposite personality here) has been done many times to great success in both movies and TV. Grizzled cop plus crazy (Lethal Weapon), grizzled cop plus con man (48 Hours), grizzled cop plus kid (Cop and a Half), even grizzled cop plus alien (Alien Nation). There’s even a precedent for grizzled cop plus android (I, Robot).
What sets Almost Human apart is that it’s not really about the cop’s relationship with the robot. It’s about humankind’s relationship with technology, a theme that permeated Fringe as well. This leads to complex stories like the second episode of Almost Human, which dealt with an illegal sexbot ring, and the nature of robot consciousness.
The effects and production design are top notch, and it may be a little too early to declare too much about this young show, but it has a bright future. In order for it to be reached, you need to start watching. The ratings for its Monday premier, the second episode of the season, were decent but by no means stellar. Don’t let this one go the way of Firefly. Get on board now.
Almost Human appears on Fox at 8 p.m. on Mondays.
By Ygal Kaufman