{television} almost human

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“In a not-so-distant future, human cops and androids partner up to protect and serve.” IMDb

Do you remember RoboCop (1987)? I do. It was okay for the time, but it isn’t something I can get excited re-booting. Yes, I know there is a film in the offing. I had it in my mind that Fox’s new television show Almost Human (2013) was of RoboCop ilk. It isn’t. Now Blade Runner (1982)? Yes. It even has a pleasant flavor of the recent [Judge] Dredd (2012)–in which Karl Urban just so happened to star–minus the intense gore & bloodletting. Also, not so comic-bookish. Add a tinge of Total Recall (2012) while your at it…at least for the “pilot.”  All this to say: I decided to watch not only the Pilot, but every episode since. If you like Blade Runner and/or Dickian sci-fi futures & dilemmas, give it a go.

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Starring: (l-r) Michael Irby (Richard Paul), Minka Kelly (Valerie Stahl), Michael Ealy (Dorian), Karl Urban (John Kennex), Lili Taylor (Capt. Sandra Maldonado) & Mackenzie Crook (Rudy Lom).

Almost Human reads like a procedural drama closer to Castle (humor) than Law & Order: SVU (gut-wrenching horror), but it does have serious & dark matters. The technological future plays not only into the setting, but to its unusual criminal opportunity. The show also takes advantage of human drama in the philosophical musings of its android character Dorian (Michael Ealy). With all its gadgetry and ‘what does it mean to be (almost) human?’ the series is going for gritty realism, carrying off normalcy with incredible aplomb. The success, in great part, is due to casting Karl Urban as Detective John Kennex who is at home in science-fictional landscapes, action films, and comedy. He translates well and carries off his character and the situations convincingly. His age is perfect on him (delicious one might say).

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I am steadily warming to the Urban and Ealy chemistry, Dorian’s character ever surprising Kennex, to our delight. He has a dry wit, delivered smooth. The body count has been high, and so have been the laughs. Anticipating story lines presents a new challenge with the future and its tech being foreign enough. This brings me to the mad-scientist in the basement Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook). His lab really ties the show back to Blade Runner (for Sean). He is typical of what we are seeing in handling of the characterization on the show. Two episodes in and Lom (Crook) has moved beyond caricature. I can’t possibly see anyone better in the role. This true of Kennex (Urban) and Dorian (Ealy). I look forward to a few of the other characters moving beyond device/role and owning the character they are in; and feel relief that it could be handled in an episode–we’re all still waiting on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) to make someone other than Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg ) indispensable.

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The androids maintain the appropriate distance, heavily applied foundation flattening their aspect, their movements robotic, expressions programmable. Dorian’s model is more flexible, but he always bears signs of his android-ness. There is alot of interesting (and not-so-interesting) conversations on how the show is handling race. What are they saying in casting Ealy as the android and Urban as the human? What would it say if it were the other way around? While we’ve seen sex-bots (“Skin” ep2), we’ve yet to see female androids (that I’ve noted), but the androids and human are ethnically diverse. And I adore their female captain Sandra Maldonado–the character and the actress Lili Taylor.

The pilot is unsurprisingly info-heavy, but it moves to tread more naturally into the subsequent episodes. It is so nice to not say, “Hmm, I’ll give this an episode or two.” I’m decided. Looking forward to a good season of sci-fi crime drama. Please, please, Fox do not cancel!

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Almost Human (2013)—

Created by J.H. Wyman. Theme Music: The Crystal Method. Executive producers: Wyman, J.J. Abrams & Bryan Burk, Producer: Athena Wickham. Location: Vancouver. Studios: Frequency Films, Bad Robot Films, Warner Bros. Television. Airing on Fox.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m already figuring Fox will cancel it, simply because I like it. 🙂 We decided to give the pilot a try and were instantly hooked. This week’s episode is the first we’ve been able to catch “live” as we’ve always had something going on and had to catch them on Hulu Plus.

    I like the casting very much, thing the special effects are very well done for a television show and have been impressed that the show surprises me at times, like the handling of the Butcher in this week’s episode and the fact that they just left it cold like that, never going back to what he (Kennex) did. Nice.

    I can see that it would have been interesting to have a race reversal with the roles, but I suspect this was a vehicle for Karl Urban given his rising popularity and that is why they played it the way they did. I was also pleased that in the obligatory sex-bot episode it was less about sex and more about humanity, particularly at the end. That was a nice touch.

    I’m also happy that they haven’t tried to sex-up Minka Kelly’s character. She is attractive but dressed professionally rather than provocatively. A surprise both for Fox and for television shows in general. I’m sure she’ll have her moment, I cannot imagine the writers resisting, but at least four episodes in she has been a nice supporting character that hasn’t been played up for eye-candy.

    1. L says:

      Yes, and the focus on the human-ity in that episode is really telling of how they are trying something new and unexpected. Like, too, the shot he has yet (if ever) to answer for, & they knew we expected a conversation when they had the Captain call him in.

      I, too, really like their allowing Minka’s character her professionalism, she has avoided any caricature thus far, their balancing her and keeping her in the background for now… Love Dorian’s teasing of Kennex about the dating service.. 🙂

      1. I’m also enjoying the fact that even though Kennex has had his eyes open to Dorian’s “humanity” to a small degree, he has suddenly come around and become 100% embracing. He has rough edges to iron out and is still a character of long prejudices working through these. I so hope they give this show time to develop, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about it.

        I’m not really into television shows like Revolution (just a personal preference) and formulaic shows like Eureka and Warehouse 13 (both of which I am making my way through) are fun but they don’t scratch my SF itch like Almost Human does.

  2. I was dubious and left this show in my Hulu queue until this week. I was so pleasantly surprised. Granted, you give me a good character pairing and I’m pretty happy (the main thing that’s been keeping Sleepy Hollow on my watch list), but I’ve also been impressed with how many aspects of technology they’ve worked at extending. This isn’t a world with just ‘bots, but with other aspects of technology that would parallel that kind of advancement. A few episodes in I caught myself thinking, “Wow, this is an *actual* science fiction show!” It’s been a while.

    1. L says:

      I appreciate, too, how they’ve seen to surrounding advancing technologies as well. I hear you on the Sleepy Hollow pairing holding its interest

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