‘Almost Human’ Is Almost Watchable

Senior Contributor
11.18.13 54 Comments

J.H. Wyman is best known for creating Fringe, so that name behind Almost Human, an Asimov-esque series about a human and a robot serving as buddy cops is an attention-getting idea. But the pilot, despite having interesting parts, doesn’t know how to make them fit together.

You’ve heard this plot before, so much so you can put it together almost entirely from TV Tropes links. So that’s what I’ll do! Karl Urban plays John Kennix, a Cowboy Cop suffering from Laser-Guided Amnesia about the raid he coordinated that resulted in a Dead Partner. The callous way police androids handled the matter left him with a pretty strong dose of Fantastic Racism. Even though his motto is I Work Alone, he’s paired with Dorian, a robot with emotions. Together, They Fight Crime, because otherwise you wouldn’t have the Salt And Pepper Buddy Cop Show that obviously made Fox pick this up in the first place. The network seems far less interested in the whole Androids and Detectives angle that’s this show’s entire selling point.

If it seems like I’m beating on this show for being generic… well, I am. Aside from the fact that Dorian is a robot and thus occasionally busts out with the dramatic special effects, it’s a buddy cop show straight from the book, and it’s a waste, not least because the show’s future setting is a credible, even interesting one. This is a show that cut Lili Taylor a check for a role a mannequin could do. Michael Ealy, who plays Dorian, is the only member of the cast who gets to have fun, and honestly he nearly makes the show watchable. The show’s best gag is that Kennix, for all his grouchy loner behavior, turns out to be the calm one; Dorian is the loose cannon jumping into the line of fire.

And there are other good ideas here. Kennix has, since he woke up from a coma, been using a black-market doctor to probe his memories and try to reconstruct what went wrong on that raid. It may have had something to do with his ex-girlfriend… but he can’t be sure, and when the show deals with this, it becomes interesting.

This is just a pilot; Fringe didn’t open strongly either, but it did find a tone fairly quickly. Almost Human, if it chooses to actually use what makes it different, might be able to do the same.

A few more thoughts:

  • I really hope the Scrubs shout-out in naming the lead characters John and Dorian was intentional.
  • The opening, easily the most action-packed moment of the show, may have been deliberately referencing Doom. Or maybe everybody, including Karl Urban, has agreed to just forget about that movie.
  • The make-up is actually quite good on this show; the androids have subtle “tabs” on their faces that clue you in something’s up.
  • I’m still not sure why they even have Minka Kelly’s character in the script. Her character seems mostly to exist to be a Pretty Exposition Machine.

Any thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

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