This past week I came down with a bad case of the flu and couldn’t do much other than sit and stare. But the good thing that came out of it was that I finally got around to watching the new science fiction show on FOX called Almost Human.
Created by J.H. Wyman (who worked on Fringe), it’s basically a cop procedural set in the near future (the year 2048 to be exact), a time when every cop is assigned an android as a partner. Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) wakes up from a coma with memory loss and a synthetic leg. He doesn’t like the idea of partnering up with a robot, so he has eccentric android technician Rudy (Mackenzie Crook) hook him up with Dorian (Michael Ealy), an android model that was discontinued for being almost too human.
The pilot episode is a lot of Kennex adjusting to life back on the police force and getting into arguments with Dorian, who he calls “synthetic.” At one point, he tires of talking to Dorian and tries to turn him off — but besides not working, this seems to offend Dorian. By the end of the episode, Kennex is starting to like Dorian for his natural, emotional responses. Besides that, Dorian isn’t like the other androids on the force; he thinks on his own and sometimes breaks the rules. That’s the kind of partner Kennex appreciates.
To be honest, I’ve been missing another sci-fi show lately: Continuum, which returns with its 3rd season next year. Part of the reason I watched Almost Human this week was because I wanted to watch Continuum so much, and it turns out they do have a similar feel. I like the slightly futuristic tech they both feature… and they’re both cop shows.
Setting police procedurals in the near future is an easy twist, but it works surprisingly well. You can’t think too hard about the technology — for instance, I’m not sure we’ll still be carrying cell phones around in 2048 — but the addition of fictional drugs, androids designed as prostitutes, and futuristic weapons and armor is always fun to see in these shows.
Plus, these shows always include some type of future-tech nerd. In Almost Human, Rudy fills that role and adds a lot of humor to the show. In the latest episode, “The Bends,” he goes undercover for the police, posing as a drug cook — and his oddball personality actually helps sell his disguise until things start to go horribly wrong, as they inevitably do in these situations…
Kennex and Dorian are also funny as they try to relate to each other. Dorian’s usually calm and composed but has a dry sense of humor when he teases Kennex. Meanwhile, Kennex gets irritated when Dorian points out things that people don’t normally talk about. A great example is in the latest episode, when Kennex tries to teach Dorian human manners at a Japanese restaurant — only to have Dorian retaliate by having the chef serve Kennex a meal that’s still alive.
Sure, the show can get a little cheesy sometimes. That’s the way of low-budget sci-fi. Some of the plots are also very derivative, and I wasn’t into the latest episode’s Breaking Bad homage with the fedora and the genius cooking drugs (although I did like that the episode centered on Rudy!). And while I think the acting is good — particularly Ealy as Dorian — I feel like having the protagonist be a man with a troubled past, depression, PTSD, and a major chip on his shoulder is a little overdone.
But it’s working out okay so far. I’m getting into it. Mostly I like Almost Human for being an offbeat choice and filling in the gap until Continuum starts back up. I’m also looking forward to finding out more about Kennex’s past as his memory comes back to him. I’m sure it involves a major conspiracy…