Pointless Nonsense

Posted in tv by Bill on November 18, 2013

almost-humanAlmost Human is Fox’s new drama about a cop and his robot buddy fighting crime, created by J.H. Wyman (who was the co-showrunner of Fringe from season 2 on). Karl Urban is a detective who loses his partner and his leg during a botched raid, which he blames on an android who was on the raid with them. When he comes back to the force 17 months later, he hates the android he’s forced to partner with, and eventually they give him an older model that was discontinued because its programmed emotions made it unpredictable, played by Michael Ealy* (I’m amused that their names are John and Dorian because of Dr. John Dorian from Scrubs).

The pilot is pretty solid. The cast is good, Urban and Ealy definitely seem like a pair that can carry a show. Lili Taylor is the boss, the BBC Office‘s MacKenzie Crook is the robot technician guy. Minka Kelly is also around, looking hot and otherwise contributing basically nothing to the pilot. The story sets up a lot of possibilities for the future, but the show keeps it simple, focusing on the two main characters and a plot by the bad guys that they have to stop.

It’s very sparse with details about the world they inhabit, beyond the presence of police robots. I think, like Fringe, they are striving for accessibility. With Fringe, it was to keep the stories self-contained. Every episode had a problem, and at the end of every episode that problem would be resolved. It didn’t take long for them to bail on that idea, though. Here, despite playing with a lot of themes of serious science fiction, they keep the scifi stuff to a minimum. Cops have robot partners, people have Minority Report computer displays, and there are black market doctors that will help you recover memories. But basically everything else in the pilot is a standard police procedural.

But they seem to have sprinkled the background with a lot of scifi elements, and the implication of lots of familiar scifi tropes. There’s a vaguely big brother-ish ad for something called Omega, which I assume will be a giant corporation with its hands in everything. The city (is it LA? I honestly don’t remember the name of the city even came up) appears to have a walled off slum area where much of the crime (and also cool dystopian future stuff like the aforementioned black market doctor) happens. The main part of the city looks pristine and fancy futuristic, but the walled off parts look halfway between Blade Runner and Robocop (it seemed extra Robocop-ish in the very beginning when he lost his leg, and they made a random comment about the walled off part of the city having good noodles, which has to be a specific Blade Runner reference).

Anyway, I am 100% in on this show. I’m slightly confused by the Sunday premiere leading into the regular Monday timeslot (in which it will air its second episode tonight), but I guess they were hoping for some extra exposure with an NFL lead-in? It did premiere to good numbers (9.1m total/3.1 18-49), so either that NFL lead-in thing or the heavy promotion of the show worked. Since I really liked it, that’s good news, and I hope the audience sticks around.

* – I tried dodging the trailers as best I could, but I did know the show was about a cop and an android partner. For a long while I thought Karl Urban was the robot and Michael Ealy the human, I think largely because in Ealy’s previous series, USA’s Common Law, he was the emotional one while his partner was uptight. Although, given the Blade Runner similarities, it could totally turn out that Karl Urban’s character is also a robot (like he died in the opening and they put his consciousness in a synthetic like Dorian).

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