“Please be good.”
“PLEASE be good.”
“Please be GOOD.”
This I repeated over and over in my head before the week’s two-night premiere of Almost Human. Y’know, that hyped and postponed sci-fi show on Fox starring the sexy Karl Urban as a gritty, glowering, future cop John Kennex? Yeah, the future. He saw some bad things and did some bad stuff, and all he’s got is a eyebrow-furrowing, post-coma life, a head full of repressed memories, and a synthetic leg to show for it. Oh, and he’s also got a new partner who’s fully synthetic. Dorian, played by Michael Ealy, is a “crazy,” emotional android who’s not at all like his other straight-laced, by-the-book manufactured colleagues. He thinks, he feels, and he has a cool party trick – making parts of his face light up (which do that anyway when he’s “processing data”). This new take on the old “buddy cop” premise intrigued me from the start, and after was all said and done, the shows were okay…mostly.
I’m pretty sure that Heroes ruined the chances of me ever getting fully behind a new sci-fi series ever again. But that’s old news, a series that started off with such incredible promise, only to devolve into a complete s***storm of bad acting and writing. But not all sci-fi/fantasy TV shows are like that. There are days when I miss Eureka and Caprica (which, sadly, was cancelled much too soon), but there’s plenty of Doctor Who, as well as Torchwood and Battlestar Galactica reruns to keep the world spinning. But every time a new sci-fi/fantasy show pops up on the TV, my nostalgic self always turns back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Though not every episode was a winner, ST: TNG got most everything right – the stories, the chemistry, the cast, the science and the fiction. I doubt we’ll ever see the likes of a great ensemble TV show like it any time soon.
And that’s why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is so troublesome.
Well…terrible transitions aside, besides Almost Human, the other sci-fi/fantasy show that promised to herald in a new age of entertainment greatness is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As the show was slowly revealed up till its September release, we saw an ensemble cast that could have great chemistry. Check. With source materials for decades, their stories could be pretty awesome. Check. And it’s S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), so how could there not be a decent mix of science and fiction? Check. We’re now nine episodes into the S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s first season and I’m already on the fence. Yes, it pains me to say it, but S.H.I.E.L.D. is B.O.R.I.N.G. And I say that with all the love of a Marvel supporter. What I know of S.H.I.E.L.D. pretty much comes from Marvel’s recent movies. I know that Coulson was one of my favorite characters in the Iron Man movies…and that’s about it. The thought of him having his own show was exciting and intriguing. But now that they’ gone and put him and his crew on the small screen, well…I can’t say I’m really looking forward to episode #10. I don’t hate the show, and I don’t plan to give up on it, but by Ming-Na’s epic scowls, its stories had better get a little more juicy and relatable…and, well…comic-y! There’s 40+years worth of S.H.I.E.L.D. comics, so why we’re getting stories that are less interesting than watching someone build an Access databases (do people even do that anymore?), I don’t know.
This brings me back round to Almost Human. With only two episodes under its belt, I can’t yet call it fair or foul. It’s from the guys who made Fringe, so I’m trying to keep all my skepticism under wraps throughout at least the first season. In terms of these premiere episodes, I liked the second one much more than the first (sorry, I don’t care much for origin stories, just get to all the action and crime-solving, kay?), though its moments of sheer fun and good writing were somewhat crippled by outright “wtf?” moments. I don’t want to get too spoilery here, but you can check out great reviews of both episodes here and here.
Suffice to say, I’m gritting my teeth in the hopes that neither Almost Human nor S.H.I.E.L.D. fall completely into the depths of mediocrity. (Though S.H.I.E.L.D. kind of started there, so maybe there’s nowhere to go but up?) The sci-fi/fantasy TV landscape is rather desolate right now; though that’s not counting the large and fertile land mass that is Doctor Who, so there’s plenty of room for these shows to take root. God only know that we don’t need any more procedural spin-offs or unfunny sitcoms terraforming the place.