TV Review: ‘Almost Human’

Almost Human TV Review

Bad Robot's futuristic cop-android buddy drama certainly feels like an assembly-line product

Almost Human” is just barely watchable — a grunged-up vision of a dystopian, crime-ridden future, with actors portraying humanoid robots, including the one played by Michael Ealy, who weaves awkward slang into his speech. It’s a quirky addition to a Fox lineup that already has scored a modest success with the fantasy-infused “Sleepy Hollow,” but the network seems unlikely to enjoy such good fortune twice.

The year is 2048 (one can only imagine how many Bushes and Clintons have been president in the intervening decades), but this is less “Blade Runner” than “Alien Nation,” or perhaps “Law & Order: Cyborg Cop Unit” — using the futuristic backdrop strictly as a means of creating a different venue for a mismatched copshow.

Karl Urban plays John Kennex, the hard-bitten cop who has experienced a major loss — as in former colleagues and his leg, blown off in a explosive attack of unexplained origins, and replaced by a gee-whiz prosthetic device.

As a consequence, John isn’t prone to trust people, or machines. Because as it happens, when Kennex returns to the force, in an attempt to level the playing field against heavily armed criminals, each cop must be paired with a humanoid mechanical partner.

Still, Kennex quickly jettisons the state-of-the-art “combat-ready” android initially assigned to him, before his caring captain (Lili Taylor) saddles him with a decommissioned older model that tends to mimic humans. The new sidekick is named Dorian, played by “Sleeper Cell’s” Ealy. “I’m running my colloquialism routine, so I express most data conversationally, man,” he explains.

Urban is perfectly fine as this futuristic Dirty Harry, but Ealy never hits anything approximating a rhythm as his eager-to-please partner. Then again, neither is helped much by the tin-eared dialogue, and if the underlying message of J.H. Wyman’s script (produced under the aegis of J.J. Abrams’ prolific Bad Robot shingle) is a feeling that a machine can be more human than a man who has deadened his emotions, there’s precious little reason to care about what happens to either of them. The same goes for Minka Kelly (“Friday Night Lights”) as an intelligence analyst in the department.

Nor does the series have as much fun as it should with the near-future visions, avoiding “Jetsons”-like flights of fancy as it dives right into gritty crime terrain.

Fox has paired the show with “Sleepy Hollow,” albeit without providing “Almost Human” the benefit of following it as a lead-in. The network did delay the premiere to provide the series the benefit of NFL football to kick off its debut, and while the macho aspects do establish the newcomers as an alternative to the broadcast competition like “The Voice” and CBS’ comedies, the pilot isn’t imaginative or compelling enough to arouse much interest.

In that regard, “Almost Human’s” premise is apt in one unintended way. Because these characters and situations feel very much like something that just came off an assembly line, the kind of bad robot that probably should have been recalled for a tune-up.

TV Review: 'Almost Human'

(Series; Fox, Sun. Nov. 17, 8 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Vancouver by Bad Robot in association with Warner Bros. Television.

Crew

Executive producers, J.H. Wyman, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk; co-executive producers, Kathy Lingg, Reid Shane, Brad Anderson; producer, Athena Wickham; director, Anderson; writer, Wyman; camera, Tom Yatsko; production designer, Ian Thomas; editor, Tanya Swerling; music, The Crystal Method; casting, April Webster, Sara Isaacson. 60 MIN.

Cast

Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Minka Kelly, Mackenzie Crook, Michael Irby, Lili Taylor

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  1. G. Jardoness says:

    Bravo Mr. Lowry. Why is ‘any of this’ a surprise? Mr. Abrams and his fellow eternally-adolescent grandma’s basement dullards have more than demonstrated what brain-rot results from being weened exclusively on cartons and comic-books…

    The real question is why Fox and NBC, and so many of the major studios feel they have no other choice, but to throw hundreds-of-millions of dollars at these talent-less hacks, who’s sole ability seems to be playing mad-libs and connect-the-dots with the issues, stories, and genres they have absolutely nothing original to contribute or significant to say, they seemingly cannot fathom or have any hope of ever understanding… All in the hopes, enough special effects and empty-headed misdirection might ‘fool enough of the people enough of the time’.

    Please, recognize it for what it is, simple fraud… As contemptible as someone selling $5 Rolex Watches from the back of a van… So, let the buyer beware… You get what you pay for.

  2. suzyku says:

    You are soooooooo wrong! Michael Ealy was excellent, show was interesting and showed promise! I do believe it’s you sir who needs to be recalled for a better mindset/tuneup!

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