Teasers for CBS’s new sci-fi series Extant have been running for a very long time. Since the beginning of the year, if not before. During that time, my interest level in it has gone from “eh, maybe” to “yay awesome!” With an Almost Human-sized hole in my sci-fi viewing arena, I’ve since been looking forward to the show in the hopes that it might not only be something fun to watch, but also join the rare air of successful network sci-fi shows. After watching Extant‘s first episode a couple days ago, it’s too early to call foul or fair, but here are my initial impressions.
There’s nothing quite like getting into a new TV show when it first premieres and instantly falling in love with it. A lot of TV shows, whether they’re good or bad, often get the kiss of death by the end of the first or second season if the show isn’t performing well in the ratings game. Most people have to hold their breaths or cross their fingers and hope their show won’t get cancelled.
When a show manages to jump over the cancellation hurdle and it can safely ease into this feeling of being around for many years to come, fans have many reasons to rejoice, as they can enjoy the characters and story for as long as the creators and networks will allow. Unless you encounter a show that has outlived its welcome.
Several months ago, I wrote up a post here concerning two new and seemingly promising sci-fi/adventure shows: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Almost Human. At the time I called S.H.I.E.L.D., like my GFN cohort Simpleek, a boring trudge of a show. The stories presented throughout the first third or so of the season were dull and some of the characterizations left much to be desired. Almost Human was then just a couple shows into its run, and it was too soon for me call the show out for either its greatness or terribleness. Almost Human’s first season ended about a month ago. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D still has a little more than a month to go before its season is over. Where do things stand now?
TV was a big deal for me at my house when I was growing up. I watched every single show that caught my fancy from Full House to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Growing up as a kid during the ’90s, we arguably had the best shows to watch. As I got older and shows started getting less and less appealing for me to watch, I’ve gotten pickier about my viewing habits. I don’t watch a ton of TV anymore and I barely have time to watch the ones I do watch.
Have you seen King of the Nerds? I won’t hold it against you if you haven’t, especially if you don’t have cable, since…uh…it’s on cable. But also the Internet, as is everything. It’s a reality show that, as the title suggests, pits self-proclaimed smarty-pants against one another in a series of challenges that society at-large perceives as geeky and/or nerdy, such as playing science-fiction trivia or LARPing. The show premiered last year, and I watched that first season as eleven people were whittled down to a single winner. It was not the most repulsive of reality shows; yet, it was far from the best. (With the “best” being I don’t even know what.)
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…
I used to be a major TV watcher as a kid. TV was my main source of entertainment, mainly because you had really good shows like Full House, Family Matters, Boy Meets World, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to name a few. It was easy to get caught up in the lives and antics of these families or characters for half an hour. Every time I tuned into these shows as a kid, it really felt like coming home or visiting an old friend each week.
These days my TV viewing habits have gone down drastically. There isn’t a lot of time to watch anything as much as I used to, or I’m much pickier about what I spend my time watching. Then there are shows I’ve been wanting to get into, but haven’t had time for a variety reasons. Recently, and thanks to the invention of Netflix Stream, I finally made time to watch Zooey Deschanel’s hit TV show New Girl. Words can’t even begin to describe how much I really love this show.