November 17, 2013



ALMOST HUMAN:  Monday 8PM on FOX (after a Sunday Nov 17 preview) – Worth A Look

The ALMOST HUMAN pilot has a whole lot of concept.  The show was created by J. H. Wyman, a senior writer/producer on Fringe (the pilot is directed by Brad Anderson, who also directed many Fringe episodes), and the new show’s universe similarly combines sci-fi with procedural.  We’re in 2048 (heavy on the neon Blade Runner influence), when most police are partnered with “MX” androids, who behave in the emotionlessly logical way familiar from decades of TV and movie robots.  Our hero, John Kennex (Karl Urban, best known as Bones from the rebooted Star Trek franchise) will have none of that, though, and he insists on a human partner.  But not for long, because in the prologue sequence the duo are ambushed by a masked gang stealing some futuristic McGuffin.  Kennex’s partner is killed, and Kennex loses his leg and is blown into a coma.

The main action of the show takes place 2 years later, shortly after Kennex has awakened from his coma, his leg replaced by a robotic limb.  He still can’t remember all of his past, and frequents a black-market, unlicensed doctor who tries to shock his brain into memory.  His commanding officer Captain Maldanado (Lili Taylor, paying the bills after long honorable years toiling in indie film) is anxious for him to return, but there’s a catch:  by now, human cops are flat-out required to have android partners.  Luckily for Kennex, after an abortive effort to work with an MX, it turns out there’s a discarded robot model that was just about to be sent to the scrap heap–a DRN, or “Dorian” (Michael Ealy), who’s entirely different from the MX, fully loaded with intuition, emotion, and enthusiasm about being a cop, yet still able to download data and analyze blood samples.  Kennex remains cranky about being forced into working with a “synthetic,” but by the pilot’s end, they’re well on their way to being the newest form of buddy cops.

That’s plenty of expository burden for an hour of pilot to carry, but Almost Human has more, because there’s still the mystery of who ambushed him and his partner 2 years ago and what they were after, a case that ties into a new robbery and assault on a fellow cop.  Kennex’s recovered memory eventually coughs up a revelation, which is followed by a last-second Big Reveal out of left field.

There’s so much premise in the Almost Human pilot, some of it clumsily forced, that we won’t know until the series has actually gotten underway tomorrow exactly what it’s going to be like week to week.  For example, now that Kennex is content to be partnered with Dorian, it would be good to see Urban tap some of the dour humor he does well in the Star Trek movies.  (It’s also fairly clear that a fellow cop played by Minka Kelly is a potential romantic interest.)  In the pilot, he’s almost unrelievedly grim, and although Urban does grim as well as the next action hero, his performance doesn’t get to show a lot of colors.  It’s also not clear just how “almost human” Dorian is going to be, a balance between ordinary guy and programmed personality that will have to play out over time.  This pilot also seems to have had a very healthy budget for CG (it hails from J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot factory), and the series will likely have to work with less generous resources.

For now, Almost Human feels more like a Syfy entry than a broadcast network event, but the show has room to grow (Fringe was a very different series at the end of its first season than it was when it began).  As a regular series, Almost Human will have the advantage of the hit Sleepy Hollow as its companion for the first few weeks (until The Forgotten takes over the slot), which should get it some attention, even against How I Met Your Mother and The Voice.  The biggest question mark will be whether the series can make the long journey from “almost” to a show that works.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."