TV review: “Almost Human” almost nails it

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From the November 14, 2013 edition

“Almost Human,” Fox’s latest foray into sci-fi is yet another solid attempt that will probably end up low-rated and/or perpetually on cancelation bubble. I’m being pessimistic, but that’s how these things usually work out with Fox’s sci-fi offerings. See also: “Firefly” and “Fringe.”

“Almost Human” is a fairly simple concept that could find an audience, though. It’s basically a futuristic buddy cop show. In the near (and obviously dystopian because it must be no other way) future, Det. John Kennex (Karl Urban) and all other cops are mandatorily paired with human-looking robot partners. Kennex doesn’t like or trust robots, until he’s partnered with one of the obsolete, potentially “crazy” and more emotional versions in Dorian (Michael Ealy).

The pilot kicks off with a big (and potentially spoiler-y so I’ll be vague) action sequence that sets up the narrative of Kennex and his rivals, the criminal empire known as The Syndicate. From there, “Almost Human” isn’t much but an exposition device to set up this universe, until Ealy’s Dorian and Urban’s Kennex connect.

It’s in this relationship where “Almost Human” actually shows signs of life, or artificial life if you will. Urban is pretty solid at playing the strong, silent type — check out the new “Dredd” movie on Netflix, mainly for the stylized direction and badassery, but Urban’s minimalist performance is interesting too. And Ealy does a lot more than he should with his character.

Created by J.H. Wyman (former “Fringe” showrunner), and produced by J.J. Abrams — because his name sells — there are bits and pieces throughout the pilot signaling potential. The core relationship is promising and there’s enough of a serialized plot teased out to keep me watching for a few more episodes.

With that said there is a lot of television worth watching out there, and it would be easy for “Almost Human” to be forgotten. But Fox has put some promotional heft behind the series, so there seems to be an investment by the network. Either way, it’s a show I recommend checking out, even if it does get cancelled.

Photo courtesy of Fox