Sunday nights are generally a pretty busy night for television, so whenever a new series is introduced into the mix, it's important to figure out whether or not it's even worth a watch early on, so you don't waste three Sundays of your life "giving it a shot" when you could just be watching The Walking Dead. Take last night, for example: Almost Human , the new series from J.J. Abrams' production company Bad Robot and Fringe creator J.H. Wyman, premiered on Fox.
With Wyman at the helm, Abrams involved, a cast that includes Karl Urban and Michael Ealy, and a plot that's set in the near future involving LAPD officers being paired with lifelike robot partners, the whole thing seems promising... but how was it, really? Overall, the reviews seem mixed, but it doesn't look like all is lost for this show. Here's a round-up of what the Internet's top TV critics are saying about the series:
If it seems like I’m beating on this show for being generic… well, I am. Aside from the fact that Dorian is a robot and thus occasionally busts out with the dramatic special effects, it’s a buddy cop show straight from the book, and it’s a waste, not least because the show’s future setting is a credible, even interesting one. This is a show that cut Lili Taylor a check for a role a mannequin could do. Michael Ealy, who plays Dorian, is the only member of the cast who gets to have fun, and honestly he nearly makes the show watchable. The show’s best gag is that Kennix, for all his grouchy loner behavior, turns out to be the calm one; Dorian is the loose cannon jumping into the line of fire.
Even with all of the sci-fi trappings, Almost Human, unfortunately, does not feel like anything new. One can’t help but think of Will Smith in I, Robot or any other dystopian future stories. Moreover, while futuristic technology has the potential to elicited both shock and awe, here it unfortunately does not. None of Almost Human’s weapons and tech are cool enough to make them standout from things we have seen before. Or what we’re seeing now on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
EW named Almost Human one of the most promising shows of the season in our Fall TV Preview issue. The pilot has been slightly tweaked since then — and for the better. It captures your imagination for a show that could explore our romance with technology, for better and worse, and how technology is simultaneously expanding and diminishing our humanity. Who is more human: A stuck-in-the-past human being with a mechanical leg who refuses to evolve emotionally? Or a completely synthetic physical creature programmed to feel deeply and hungry to grow? What remains to be seen is if this premise can produce a wealth of story.
The strong series that will hopefully follow should quickly flesh out Urban’s character, create some compelling villains, and (I suspect this mandate might be the hardest) maintain the pilot’s impressive, undoubtedly pricy production values. Does Almost Human have a long future as a viable storytelling franchise? Or is it just a nifty idea that dresses up well for a pilot but can’t support a series? Tune in tomorrow, same time, same channel to begin taking the measure.
"Almost Human" isn't terrible, it's just not terribly interesting, at least in the first hour. Though created by "Fringe's" J.H. Wyman, it's produced with J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot imprint, which seems, for once, regrettably fitting...Both Urban and Ealy are likable leads, but they're trapped in a machine constructed mostly of spare parts. The wary ambivalence people feel toward strides in artificial intelligence has fueled science fiction since its invention.
I’ve only seen one episode of Almost Human; it’s possible the show will get more racially explicit. Maybe other characters will be more open-minded than Kennex about robots, but less so about African-Americans. Maybe if the DRNs were white they wouldn’t have been discontinued for volatility. But the pilot, like Sleepy Hollow, is an unabashedly straightforward piece of entertainment that subtly sneaks some headier themes in with all the schlock.
The second part of the premiere airs Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox.