Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sketched TV: Almost Human

Get out your robot cops and cyborg legs, we're reviewing Almost Human!

In the future, John Kennex(Karl Urban) is a detective who generally hates robots and technology. And people. Mostly everything. When an "accident" destroys his robot partner, he's assigned an older model, Dorian(Michael Ealy), that is programmed to have emotions like a human.  Can they put aside their quibbling and work together as a team?

Almost Human has been going on for a couple months but there's talks it might get axed so I thought I'd give you a few reasons to check it out.

The best reason to tune in to Almost Human is the ultra cool future tech. They always seem to have something new pop up every week. They've got glittery stuff to spray on people's faces that make them invisible to camera, helicopter drones to deliverer packages into hostage situations, people called "chromes" that are genetically born to be perfect, and oh hey, sex robots. Sex robots you guys! There's lot of cool stuff to discover. The people playing the robots are pretty great here. Especially when you see them naked and that they're basically giant ken-dolls.

While they introduce new elements each week, they don't really have a baseline to establish the new world. There's so many things we don't know and they never seem privy to tell us. I hate exposition info dumps as much as the next guy, but there seems to be a lot of information that needs to be established so we can fully understand what's going on. We didn't know that the pretty lady cop was a Chrome or what a Chrome was until 5 episodes in. And the first season just ended and we still don't know what or who is behind "The Wall" and why it was set up! And hey, it'd be nice to know what city this takes place in? Also IMDB says this takes place in the "near" future, but they have fully operating human-looking robots, how near do you think this future really is?

Every once in awhile the show will veer headlong into Blade Runner-mode and I wish it would just stay there. Mostly it sticks to the buddy-cop comedy-action-police procedural formula, but every so often you'll get a nice depressing moment of John eating noodles with robots while moody techno music is playing. And that's really nice. If only that could be the whole show.

What helps this show the most is the chemistry between Urban and Ealy. I'm already an Urban fan and I fully accept this whole series is a prequel to Dredd, but it helps that he has a lot of fun with his robot partner. Some of the best parts are when they're in the car riffing on each other. "If I had a cabin like this, I'd kill myself." "You should get a cabin, John." Urban has a ton of fun as a gruff snarky cop with anger issues and Ealy has some fantastic turns as his robot partner. I wish the supporting cast was as diverse and fleshed-out as say, Brooklyn Nine Nine, but some standouts include Mackenzie Crook as Rudy, an eccentric tinkerer and Lili Taylor as the captain. And every once in awhile you'll get a cool guest star like Gina Carano as a killer robot!

They have a number of really interesting future problem episodes, like an episode dealing with a robot prostitution ring in which the robots have human skin, or one in which they need to protect a witness that has an implant that allows her to talk to the recently deceased. One of my favorites is the episode in which Gina Carano plays an evil killer robot and Dorian has to fight her. Can you tell I'm a Gina Carano fan? They usually have a nice bit of action including car-chases, shootouts, and robot-on-robot fights, and that's all very welcome.

It also has a killer soundtrack! Very techno-y and future-esque, along with some moody Blade Runner-esque moody synths. I hope they release an album but I don't have high hopes.  It's not a perfect show but it's got potential and it's still a ton of fun.

THE GOOD: Great chemistry between Urban and Ealy, cool future tech, great soundtrack, cool concepts.

THE BAD: World isn't defined well, supporting cast needs to be more diverse and fleshed-out.

THE VERDICT: $$$$ Watch it! It's a good show if you like buddy-cop-procedurals and sci-fi shows.

TV SHOWS LIKE IT: Fringe, Agents of SHEILD, Alien Nation, The Good Guys, Robocop

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: The episode "Blood Brothers" which is basically like the movie Die Hard but with a robot cop who's been shot and slowly losing his mind and functions.

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