Categorized | Reviews

TV Review: Almost Human, Episode 101 “Pilot”

Almost Human vertical posterGenre: Sci-Fi | Drama | Action

Creator: J.H. Wyman

Network: Fox

Air Date/Time: November 17, 2013, 8/7c

Written by: J.H. Wyman

Directed by: Brad Anderson

Synopsis: Executive-produced by Emmy Award winner J.J. Abrams (“Fringe,” “Lost,” the “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible” franchises) and creator J.H. Wyman (“Fringe,” “The Mexican”) and starring Karl Urban (“Star Trek”) and Michael Ealy (“Sleeper Cell,” “Common Law”), ALMOST HUMAN is a high-tech, high-stakes action drama set 35 years in the future, when police officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids. An unlikely partnership is forged when a part-machine cop (Urban) is forced to pair with a part-human robot (Ealy) as they fight crime in a futuristic new world.

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There’s something you need to know up front about this show. Its creator, J. H. Wyman, has said Almost Human is meant to be a big, fun, exciting show. He said that Fringe, his previous show, had elements that were much more serious and contemplative. Almost Human is action-oriented and “more popcorny”.

You need to know this because otherwise it’s easy to start drifting towards thinking that Almost Human is quite like Fringe during the first half of the premiere episode. It’s a little dark, but with amazing gorgeous production values. The newer robot cops seem somewhat Observer-like. There are some effects that are extremely Fringe-like. The lighting and camera work are Fringe-like. And the sound is overwhelmingly Fringe-like, as Almost Human is lucky enough to have Chris Tilton in charge of music, just as he was for Fringe.

But somewhere around the midpoint you’ll start to realize that this isn’t Fringe and that might feel frustrating. So again I remind you: not contemplative and serious. This is a show that isn’t meant to reach the depths or heights of Fringe. This is a show that is meant to portray a future that is, on the whole, much more hopeful than Fringe or other dark-future series. If you bear this in mind, you can enjoy and embrace this show for what it is intended to be.

Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation may also recognize a certain dynamic: that of the android with emotions and the “improved” android without them. You know, Lor and Data. But in this case, the android with the emotions is the good guy. Dorian is in fact very sensitive by design. Even, dare I say it, slightly irritating, and not just to the impatient and driven human cop partner Kennex. It took me a little bit of time to adjust to him, really. Once I started thinking of him as having actual emotions, not just synthetic ones, though, and once I started thinking of him as – oh, I see – almost human, I started liking him a lot more.

I also had to let go of my subconscious view of Karl Urban as reprising his role as Dredd here. Quiet, focused, intense cop in a futuristic setting, it wasn’t a stretch. Again, at the beginning. But also again, this isn’t meant to be an overwhelmingly dark show, so although he does start out a bit Dredd, expecting him to stay that way would be wrong.

The dialogue and therefore the characters feel fairly broad. You heard it in the trailer above. This may be because it’s early days, or it may be the style for the series. There is a mythology, a larger longer storyline arc, to which we are introduced in the pilot, but creator Wyman has said that the series will be primarily a cop procedural, though one like nothing we’ve seen before.

The effects on this show are really quite lovely, and feel nicely 35-years-in-the-future-ish. Some of it really knocks me out, it’s just so beautifully tech-y and sharp. The Chris Tilton music is, of course, exceptional, and the perfect subtle synthetic underpinning for the show.

We have been blessed this season with two new series from the former Fringe family, Almost Human and Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow has the more absurd premise, but may have captured a little more of the charisma, cast chemistry, snappy dialogue, and humor of Fringe.

Almost Human, however, is brighter, lighter, has more action, and may in fact be more of a populist show than its cousin. It has less mythology than either Sleepy Hollow or Fringe and is therefore more likely to be the kind of show that you can tell your friends about, and suggest they jump in any time. It’s a gorgeous futuristic buddy cop procedural with some bits of larger mythology thrown in, and with a cast lead by Karl UrbanMichael Ealy, and Lili Taylor, it is strong and entertaining and absolutely worth checking out. With or without popcorn.

I give Almost Human, Episode 101 “Pilot”,  Four Out of Five Stars.
fourstars

 

 

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