So I know we had gotten as far as Wednesday on our TV schedule…but it then occurred to me that I had forgotten to write-up one of my favorite Tuesday TV shows. And since I would have to go back and do a write-up on that anyway, it just made so much sense to take the time to hop back to Monday and talk a bit about the recently released Almost Human, which I am enjoying immensely so far. Created by the production crew Too Good For First Names (a.k.a. J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams), the sci-fi, buddy-cop, procedural delivers all of the action, pop-science, and witty banter you’d expect of something with that many genre tags.
The show debuted on Sunday, November 17th as a two part event with its second episode airing the very next day (and it has now settled in to airing every Monday at 8pm). Everyone knows that series pilots are usually pretty bad, or at least not a good indicator of how strong a show really is, and I thought that Almost Human would be trying to get around this by having a two-part episode opener that would give them more time to touch on all of the things they would need to draw the viewers in. As it turns out, this was actually not the case. The first two episodes were both standard individual episodes, however, they did manage to get around the “pilot problem” by airing on back-to-back days. The improvement between the first and second episodes is substantial, noticeable even within the first scene featuring the lead characters, and I think not having to wait a week between episodes allowed the show to capture more momentum. It’s a small thing, but props to whoever thought of that.
Anyway, onto the actual primary strength of the show, which is its cast. Every buddy cop show relies on the chemistry between the lead partners for it to work, and Almost Human delivers in this area in spades. As one might expect, Karl Urban is exceptional. I was not familiar with Michael Ealy prior to this show, but his chemistry with Urban and their exchange of banter is the highlight of the show. In fact, one of the reasons that pilot was weak, as compared to the other two episodes that have followed, was the lack of exchanges between the two as the writers spent more time focusing on developing the background of the characters and hitting on some necessary plot points.
For a show like this the supporting cast is also very important. Journeyman actress Lili Taylor brings her experience to the role of the police captain who has to try and deal with Urban’s character John Kennex. Mackenzie Crook, who is probably best known for his role as the glass-eyed pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, brings some quirky comedy to the show in his role as the police station’s technician who works on all of the different androids they are required to have. And rounding it all out is Minka Kelly. All I have to say to the casting director of this show is: Thank You!
Now, the one thing I’m not a huge fan of with the show (and yes, this is sorta nitpicky) is the sci-fi world building that was developed for it. One of my future projects will be writing a post-cyberpunk series of novels, and I have been working piecemeal in my “off-time” from other writing endeavors to research technologies in the hopes of creating a very cohesive picture of the world circa 2050. There are a lot of really cool emerging technologies that are going to be impacting society in the near future, everything from self-driving cars, to 3D printers, to Google glasses. Almost Human touches on a lot of popular science concepts, showcasing a lot of different technologies that could lead to problems in the near future. However, I don’t feel that it is quite as cohesive a world as it could be, and I don’t think it fully delves into all of the upcoming advances we’re going to be seeing and how they could radically change society. All in all, the world future world of Almost Human is pretty familiar to those living nowadays, only with robots everywhere.
I don’t necessarily blame the writers for this because making sci-fi content that is accessible to the general public is tough, and I think if that’s your goal you will have to make certain concessions with how different you make the world. When things become unrecognizable to the average viewer, they will probably write the show off as too nerdy or niche, which is unfortunate but difficult to avoid. I will also say that this shortcoming doesn’t make me like the show any less, even though I do wish the sci-fi aspect of it was a little more substantial. Overall it’s really a show about Urban and Ealy, and the two of them are what make it worth watching.