Take Me To The Pilots ’13: FOX’s ‘Almost Human’

[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you’ve read me, you’ve read my reviews and you know this isn’t what they look like.]

Show:“Almost Human” (FOX)
Airs:Mondays at 8 p.m. in November
The Pitch: It’s “Blade Runner” by way of “Fringe” and then every other sci-fi thing ever.
Quick Response: Let’s just say that J.H. Wyman has a wide range of sci-fi influences at work in “Almost Human” and you won’t feel like any of them are woven together with any subtlety. But sci-fi pastiche is a storied art, so just because you can look at this futuristic buddy cop drama and precisely isolate which parts of the DNA came from “Total Recall” and which parts came from “Blade Runner” and which parts came from “Aliens” doesn’t mean this is exactly theft, per se. It’s just heavily inspired by other versions of the near future in which technology has run amuck and it’s getting harder and harder to tell people from machines. If nothing else, this is a brighter, flatter, less fatalistic vision than anything that might have been directly imagined by Philip K. Dick. Instead, this comes through the aesthetic filter of Wyman’s work on “Fringe,” right down to the familiarity of the act-break structure, the tone of the unfolding mythology and, particularly, every single musical cue. I would say that the show probably feels too “Fringe”-y at times, because it has all of the nervous ticks of “Fringe,” but without the fun outlandishness and epic scope. Dunno how to explain. This is still relatively ambitious sci-fi on a network TV budget and while “Almost Human” definitely doesn’t look like it was made on a cinematic budget, it doesn’t look cheap. The effects are reasonably solid and the conception of futuristic urbanity is reasonably, albeit limitedly, realized. Karl Urban is well-cast for particular brand of rugged skepticism. You’d be disappointed in me if I didn’t mention that there’s absolutely no reason why his character has to be American and that the accent does him no favors but, in the balance, I think Urban absolutely has what it takes to be a very good TV leading man. More proven on the small screen is Michael Ealy, who I think may well end up being the real reason I watch this show. He’s playing an android specifically programmed to have human feelings, but there’s something very tantalizingly alien about his performance that perhaps perfectly embodies the unease of the Uncanny Valley. He’s playing his character just a click “off” and it works well. The pilot seems to rush through several stages in the partnering dynamic, but I think Urban and Ealy have good chemistry. Lili Taylor and Mackenzie Crook have a decent scene or two. Minka Kelly has some dialogue in her first scene and promptly gets forgotten.
Desire To Watch Again: I just can’t get excited about anything this derivative, even if Urban and Ealy’s relationship/bickering might be slightly fresh. I’m vaguely interested in this world, but not nearly so interested in the Big Mysteries that the pilot thinks I should care about. I’m curious to see how future episodes feel and are paced, but I’m also pretty sure I could check out on this in a hurry. [Full disclosure: There is no drama pilot on any network for fall or midseason that I’m so fully invested in immediately that I’m not prepared to check out on it in a hurry.]

Take Me To The Pilots ’13: ABC’s ‘Back in the Game’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: NBC’s ‘Sean Saves the World’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: The CW’s ‘Reign’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: CBS’ ‘The Crazy Ones’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: FOX’s ‘Enlisted’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: ABC’s ‘Betrayal’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: NBC’s ‘The Blacklist’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: The CW’s ‘The Tomorrow People’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: CBS’ ‘Hostages’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: FOX’s ‘Sleepy Hollow’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: ABC’s ‘Trophy Wife’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: NBC’s ‘The Michael J. Fox Show’ 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries