There is some artificial fun to be had in Almost Human, a buddy-cop TV series set in the future.
WHEN it comes to pairing two people together to work on solving cases, the sure-fire formula is to partner a by-the-book person with the department’s loose cannon.
Then just sit back and wait for the sparks to fly.
Most of the time, it really works – The X-Files, Hunter, Castle and Elementary are some TV shows featuring successful mismatched pairs. You can add one more show – Almost Human.
The series is a procedural set in a police department where cases of murders, kidnappings and drug dealers are investigated on a daily basis. But the series has a couple of twists – the biggest of all is that one of the partners is actually a robot.
Set in the year 2048, Almost Human revolves around Detective John Kennex (the ever watchable Karl Urban) coming back to work after an injury that cost him one of his legs. Like all police officers in this future, he is paired with a robot. Unlike others, his “synthetic”, Dorian (Michael Ealy with a perpetual mischevous glint in his eyes), has the software to understand and emulate human emotions, giving him an artificial soul. Soon, however, it becomes clear that the show’s title can be applied to both the main characters – Dorian, for obvious reasons, and Kennex because he has way too many awkward interactions with people.
While it would be easy to dismiss this pair as nothing more than a gimmick, especially with them having all the cliched traits, it would be a shame not to see Urban and Ealy play these characters who often have biting exchanges and throw insults at each other. The thought that a robot can come up with a sarcastic remark (like, “It is amazing how you wear insurbodination like a virtue”) is funny.
Unfortunately, there are more than a few gags that go sideways and backfire as well, like Dorian talking a chef into putting a live snail for a reluctant Kennex to eat or Dorian nagging Kennex about his social skills or love life.
Thankfully, there are more than a few things to distract us when the humour falls flat, namely the various gadgets in the future. The surroundings look similar to the present day – except certain night scenes that look like a poor version of the movie Blade Runner – but there are some cool technologies envisioned in the series. For one, Dorian is a walking computer, allowing him to access anything about the crime scene instantly (whenever his CPU is working, a blue light appears on one side of his face).
In this future, the crime scene yellow tape is actually a hologram. There is also a technology which makes a person’s face appear as a ball of light on surveillance cameras and a bomb that releases all kinds of stuff, turning a crime scene into a forensic nightmare.
Other than Dorian talking us through all the techical aspects of the show, there is also the geeky lab guy doing the explaining. Actor Mackenzie Crook (the pirate with the glass eye in Pirates Of The Caribbean films) makes a watchable, although stereotypical, character.
However, the same can’t be said of Lily Taylor and Minka Kelly. These actresses play what must be the most colourless police officers on television ever. Kelly is pretty to look at, and the series obviously wants to romatically pair Kennex with her character, but there is just no chemistry. Taylor is a superb actress, but her character is so bland because she is hardly given anything to do.
Again, Almost Human is salvaged by something else – the action sequences. Since Ealy and Urban are two physical actors, they come off very natural when pulling out guns. Ealy has played a cop in all of his previous roles, so he should be familiar with the physical aspects of being a cop.
At the moment, Almost Human plays out like a weekly episode, with the duo handling a different case every week. But as seen in the pilot, there is a bigger mystery concerning Kennex’s girlfriend and, how the man lost his limb in a bust gone very wrong.
Whatever path the series decides to take – a weekly procedural or a season-long arc – Almost Human has enough entertainment value even with its few kinks.
- Almost Human is aired every Monday at 9.50pm on Warner TV (HyppTV Ch 613).