Almost Human: Review: Season 1 Eps 1 & 2

AlmostHumanS01E01E02Fox, November 17 & 18, 2013

Burnt out cop John Kennex returns to the force to tackle the criminal ‘syndicate’ who killed his squad. As is required, he’s teamed with an android partner but after a mishap he inherits an older model—Dorian—that used experimental ‘personality’ software to pass as more human…

Almost Human is a fairly anonymous and unmemorable title for a new TV show, especially given the near-namesake of Being Human already existing in the closely-related supernatural drama niche. I guess Holmes & Yoyo: The Next Generation was a non-starter?

The schematic nature of the concept for Almost Human—future cop teamed with robot partner—is horribly clear in the terribly disappointing and glibly written pilot episode. Almost everything that happens is entirely predictable from the premise, and even whole conversations can be anticipated as they are exactly what is required in the formulaic set-up for this kind of show. Star Karl Urban does his best in the circumstances, but he most often seems adrift in a mediocre world shamelessly patterned after offcuts from Blade Runner, the underrated TV series Total Recall 2070 and bits of Robocop.

The first show only bursts into life after a deadly dull 15 minutes when Urban’s John Kennex tosses his android partner from a moving car, where he’s rapidly flattened under the wheels of a following truck. Just when he’d decided he’d had enough of DroidCop, I was about to opt out of the show. The cut from that scene to Mackenzie Crook’s (Game of Thrones) lab and a burst of Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ re-engaged my attention. Crook plays the usual tech boffin buried in the basement, but he’s by far the best thing in the pilot. By the end of that first instalment, Almost Human looked almost dead on arrival.

So, the decision to screen the second episode the very next day (although almost a third of the initial nine million viewers took a walk) makes a great deal of sense, as it is a huge improvement. Suddenly the characters have a sense of humour, and the introduction of Dorian as the rejected more human model for the DroidCops works well, with Michael Ealy (Flash Forward) resisting the temptation to play the part as a variation on Spock or Data (although with Karl Urban their in car arguments do sometimes come across as Bones and Spock from Star Trek). Cheo Hodari Coker’s script seemed to have a far better handle on these characters than Brad Anderson’s effort on the pilot.

Although the plot of ‘Skin’ was no great shakes, it was at least a crime story that could not be done in CSI or other crime drama variants. As this dealt with android sex machines, it had to be part of a science fiction show. The debates about life after death for humans and androids were hackneyed, but were to be welcomed in their scripted elegance after the sledgehammer-like approach of the pilot.

Verdict: A vast improvement between the ham-fisted pilot and the more elegant first episode suggests this show has promise, but it’ll need careful handling.

Episode 1 ‘Pilot’: 5/10

Episode 2: ‘Skin’: 7/10

Brian J. Robb


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