Almost Human FOX

FOX’s J.J. Abrams-produced ALMOST HUMAN, which premieres soon, is one of my favorite new shows this fall, right up there with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and American Horror Story: Coven. It has great, well-developed characters, exciting stories, fantastic special effects, and presents a fully-realized dystopian future based on current trends. What else could one ask for?

As the “Pilot” begins, we are introduced to Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban, Star Trek: Into Darkness). Kennex lost his partner and his entire team in a raid gone wrong against the evil Syndicate, leaving Kennex himself in a coma for nearly a year and a half. Kennex is back to work now, his boss, Captain Maldonado (Lili Taylor, Six Feet Under), convincing him that he is needed to take down the Syndicate once and for all.

But Kennex’s transition back into his career isn’t easy. Cops are now required to work with an android partner, whom Kennex offensively dubs ‘synthetics.’ The MX series androids are logic-based, and one of them coldly calculated that Kennex and his partner’s chances to survive weren’t good during that fateful raid and leaves them, and so Kennex hates and doesn’t trust these machines. Maldonado’s solution is to give Kennex a less stable, older model of android named Dorian (Michael Ealy, The Good Wife), whom shows emotion.

So as we start out buddy cop drama we have an unusual, but pleasing, pairing. There’s Kennex, who has cut himself off from everyone in a very inhuman way, making him only part of a man, even though he’s still very good at his job. And then there’s Dorian, who seems more human than Kennex at the start, but we know others look down on him because of the emotional element, fully expected to be exhibited by people, but making many uncomfortable when it’s coming from an android.

The two have great chemistry, but there’s also a little more than the typical relationship present. It could be because of the science fiction aspect of the show. We might always be waiting for another shoe to drop concerning Dorian, as his line was retired for a reason. Or it could be because we’re never sure if Kennex might snap at any given moment, as his behavior is very irrational in the “Pilot,” destroying an MX that annoys him and visiting The Recollectionist (Hiro Kanagawa, Caprica) to relive memories that might help his work, even though it hurts his health. Both could be considered the loose cannon of the partnership.

What happens when you’ve got two wild card cops paired together? I guess we’ll find out!

The rest of the cast includes Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly, Friday Night Lights) and Richard Paul (Michael Irby, The Unit) as fellow detectives, the latter of which doesn’t think Kennex is fit for duty, and the former of whom defends Kennex, as well as Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook, Pirate of the Caribbean) as the tech guy. These seems a pretty predictable lineup from a crime procedural.

The way the roles are played, though, is anything about standard. One is not used to seeing Lili Taylor in such a take-charge position, but she handles it well. Ealy is known for playing hotheads, and now he’s the calm one. Urban’s Kennex is nothing like the sometimes-bumbling Bones McCoy, other than his phobia of tech. This is a group of talented actors taking on something different, and clearly enjoying the chance to show us their range, of which they universally have plenty.

Hopefully, ALMOST HUMAN will avoid the pratfalls of a crime procedural. Admittedly, the “Pilot” has a lot of set up by necessity, and so doesn’t really have a case-of-the-week. But the beginning also points to many larger arcs, with plenty of fodder to do a more serial story telling. If it can stick to those guns, at least as much as Fringe, which had a similar tone, did, then it should be a pretty good series, indeed.

In fact, the “Pilot” only scratches the surface of what ALMOST HUMAN could be. We are introduced to players and the situation, and then a lot happens, not closing the story, nor even a chapter in it. It’s very much a hit-the-ground running show with a quick pace. Hopefully by the time they conclude the initial premise, either in a few months or a couple of years, tops, they keep going into something else, as the possibilities in this world are nearly endless.

ALMOST HUMAN premieres this Sunday and Monday on FOX.