March 4, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “Almost Human”


The final scene of ALMOST HUMAN‘s season typified what a behind-the-scenes mess the entire run had been.  The occasion was a sequence where human police detective circa 2048 John Kennex (Karl Urban) and his cyborg partner Dorian (Michael Ealy) expressed their appreciation for one another, Dorian because Kennex had spoken on his behalf at a department hearing, and Kennex because Dorian had reawakened his ideals of police work and given him a new, advanced android leg to replace the one he’d had blown off.  But whatever scene had been originally written and performed by the actors had clearly needed to be thrown out and salvaged in post-production, because most of the scene was clumsily edited so that the performers delivered their lines in voice-over while the camera remained on the staring other actor.  Whatever emotional impact the scene was supposed to have was lost.

It’s hard to think of a major network series with more casual disregard for continuity than Almost Human.  Episodes were acknowledged to have been shown out of sequence, and repeatedly, plot points that had been designed for serialized storylines were simply tossed aside.  The pilot set up a conspiracy (led by Kennex’s own girlfriend) that had led to the attack that cost him his leg, as well as the idea that there was something psychologically risky about Dorian’s model of discontinued cyborgs, but the first story was dropped only to be raised again in a single episode and discarded again, and the second was mentioned from time to time but never developed.  Later, an episode had Kennex being informed that someone was meddling with Dorian’s brain circuits, imprinting “memories” that were those of a human, but that went nowhere.  The character of Dorian’s creator, played by John Larroquette, was introduced as though he was going to serve a larger purpose that didn’t happen.  Even more routine notions, like a potential romance between Kennex and his fellow cop, the genetically engineered Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly), would look like it was going somewhere and then not.  (In the latter case, it also had the effect of giving Kelly next to nothing to do all season–which put her on a par with Lili Taylor, who played the unit’s Captain.)

Only the people at FOX and on the show know what was driving all these stuttering failures, but the show suffered for it.  The results were mostly freestanding procedural hours that had no larger logic, none of the unified vision of a future world that this kind of series desperately needs–something that series creator J.H. Wyman, who’d been a longtime showrunner of Fringe, certainly knew.  It felt as though Almost Human was being put together on the fly, and maybe it was.  (It was also obvious that the show’s episodic series budget didn’t permit anywhere near the production values of its pilot.)

This was something of a shame, because the core casting worked.  Urban and Ealy had effective buddy cop chemistry, even if their banter was silly more often than not, and in isolated segments they made Almost Human watchable.  There were even episodes that worked, more or less, like the one with Larroquette, and one about a killer who turned his crimes into YouTube sensations.  But more often, the episodes were like tonight’s finale, written by Co-Executive Producers Allison Schapker and Graham Roland, and directed by Sam Hill, which tried to tell an involved story about a serial killer who filled copies of humans with straw while he harvested the real people for their organs (the biological printer he was using could only print the outsides) and a police conspiracy that had led to the death of Kennex’s father–it was an exercise in disarray.

Despite its mediocre ratings and creative challenges, Almost Human isn’t necessarily dead, thanks to the overall disaster of FOX’s schedule.  The Following has collapsed in its second season, Rake is all but dead (it’s just been moved to Fridays), and The X Factor is canceled, so if the network’s drama development is weak, the show could come back.  Perhaps a second season would find everyone on the same creative page and lead to some improvement.  For now, though, the best that can be said of the series is that it was almost decent.


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."