First Impression: Almost Human is Almost Good

Almost Human (Photo: Fox)
Almost Human (Photo: Fox)

Fox is betting heavily on the new dystopia procedural Almost Human. Although the pilot has several problems, there is potential for a solid series if some recalibration happens in the next few weeks.

I didn’t make it too far into Robocop when I attempted to watch it a year or so ago. The insane violence coupled with the dystopic yet inaccurate future is a combination I like to call “Not for Mikes.” Although I got all the way through the pilot of Almost Human, the experience was far too similar to the failed Netflix attempt.

The year is 2048 and the world has become a criminal wasteland. Crime is up by 400% and the police now require the assistance of androids (called MXs) to function as partners on the beat. The police are also using military-grade weaponry in their day-to-day operations. We join the action in a raid featuring John Kennex (Karl Urban), where his fellow human partner gets killed, John gets his leg blown off, and he’s knocked into a coma by a second explosion. Two years later, John’s leg is replaced with synthetic parts and he heads back to work, despite his PTSD and myriad health problems.

Department regulations force John to have an MX partner. When his assignment threatens to bust him for seeking black market medical treatments, John “accidentally” shoves the MX out of his car onto the expressway. John has to get a replacement partner, but the only available option is a refurbished model—a DRN named Dorian (Michael Ealy). The DRN series has emotional enhancements that give it human-like characteristics.

The distinction between the old DRN model and the MX model highlights my main problem from the pilot. The technology feels like a late 1980s or early 1990s vision of the future. The video conferencing technology looks to be a step back from what we have now with Skype and Facetime. The handheld computers look like less user-friendly versions of tablets. When analyzing surveillance footage of a crime scene, the video is divided into what looks like an AutoCAD display. In short, the technology appears to be making life more difficult, which may have been what’s given criminals the upper hand.

My other issue with the pilot is that the tone is beyond self-serious. One of the central conflicts of this drama is the perceived mismatch between the main characters: human/android, black/white, by-the-book/loose cannon. Although the script tries to introduce banter, the chemistry isn’t there yet. The high stakes are unearned, making the incredibly violent showdown almost cartoonish.

Despite these drawbacks, I’m interested to see where this show goes in a few episodes. Any series will go through some form of recalibration, and the problems listed above should be easy to fix. Almost Human is a straight-up procedural, but if some continuing storylines get introduced and the show experiments with some lightness in tone, this could be an exciting addition to the Fox lineup.

Tune in Tuesday when Mooch weighs in with his initial thoughts on the series.

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv