Alias. Fringe. Lost.
Oh, I’m sure you’ve never heard of those.
Either way, it appears that every year, the unstoppable creative mind that is J.J. Abrams delivers a new FOX series for the fall TV season. Partnered with fellow “Fringe” producer J.H. Wyman, Almost Human is a big load of sci-fi goodness that goes down like a Transformer drinking an Energon cube.
“Almost Human” opens up in the year 2048, with Detective John Kennex (Abrams once again goes to the future with Star Trek‘s Karl Urban) flustered in firefight with a gang of baddies who kill one of his fellow officers — and blow off his damn leg. This traumatic event puts Kennix into a coma for 17-months.
Upon returning to the force, Kennex is paired with a “synthetic” combat modeled android named MX-43. The crime rate has reached such a dangerous state that every officer is required to have one for protection and backup. Kennex, not wanting to adjust to this new guideline, swiftly “disposes” of the droid.
Because, who needs yet another damn thing chirping orders in their ears anyway?
Required of a new “synthetic”, Kennex is sent to department android tech Rudy (Mackenzie Crook) to get another one. He is paired with an outdated android model called a DRN, whose name is Dorian (Underworld: Awakening’s Michael Ealy). The difference? DRN’s got soul, brother.
Basically, your love for “Almost Human” will come down to a matter of whether you enjoy the sci-fi genre, and all the gadgets, weapons, and galaxy’s worth of action that holds these elements together. The series even comes equipped with a soundtrack that booms like a DJ spinning in your living room.
But, hey, at least with “Human,” viewers will be able to feel the production value, unlike that of the disappointing “Defiance” or seemingly downtrodden “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Here, you’ll witness androids’ faces light up when “processing”, scanning bodies like an x-ray machine, and remotely hacking into wireless networks.. just by being in the room. Everything else looks top-notch: the city’s landscape, computers, weapons, and, hell, even the bullpen of the police station.
Thrusted with an alarming rate of crime, “Almost Human” also passes on the violent synergy of a solid brother to RoboCop. All the tech in the galaxy won’t save viewers the feeling that these criminals are winning, as Abrams and Wyman must watch “The Walking Dead”; there’s definitely a sense that no one in this world — but our pair of leads, least at the moment — is safe.
When the two supercops aren’t bickering away from all the action, Kennix is off showing high regard for his superior police chief, Maldonado (Lili Taylor, “Six Feet Under”). Then, you have the ever-logical Ealy trying to convince his partner to let go the pain of his past.
How Dali Lama of him.
As the series progresses, expect even more of a focus on those very brutal beginnings, with all the quips delivered between a human and an “almost” human making for an endless stream of comedic and dramatic possibilities.
My only issues with the new FOX series is the supporting cast, seeing how they have nearly as much depth as an episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”. Maldonado is the strict police chief, but she supports her people. Det. Richard Paul (Michael Irby, “The Unit”) is the Alpha male-arrogant-douchebag. And then there’s Det. Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly, “Friday Night Lights”). Although I love Minka (oh, no, not again! – Moody), and believe she is a fine actress (in more ways than one, of course – Moody), she can’t help but seem as out-of-place as our Monsignor Moody at a Yankees home game (true dat! – Moody). Guess we’ll just have to trust J.J. on this one, since his aforementioned shows all had female leads who were very significant badasses in their own way.
Once you get past the pilot’s predictable “warming up” to the robot scenario, you’ll appreciate this different take on the buddy cop genre. I say that, because not everyone will get the entire gist of “Almost Human” until the second episode: this particular “synthetic” feels far more a human than our human at hand. “Don’t scan my testicles ever again.”
Ahhh, yes. Human-speak. Think about those two lines, and who in our real life would actually say them. It makes the premise almost brilliant, really.
Urban’s terribly strong and gritty veteran attitude could also be looked upon as a mock of previous procedural dramas, but, even so, the show thankfully never reaches spoof territory. Nor does the direction completely reach the near dangerous Kindergarten (Robo)Cop comedy level, either. Wyman may be walking that very fine line within these first two episodes — and, hell, that’s perhaps what makes the show thus far all the more synthetically pleasing.