A new fall broadcast television season that began with a headless horseman and ends with a dysfunctional robot — both on Fox, incidentally, so feel free to construct the metaphor of your choice — finally staggers to its conclusion Sunday night, two months, 30 shows and five cancellations after it started. Rest in peace. Well, except for you, Ironside remake, who can continue writhing in TV Hell while awaiting the arrival of Dads and The Goldbergs, unaccountably delayed by an epidemic of hideously bad viewer taste.
Almost Human, the robot cop-buddy show (being a TV critic sometimes seems to be an endless loop of phrases you never thought you’d write in your life), is not the best of the new crop, but it’s also far from the worst. At least not yet. It comes from the shop of producer J.J. Abrams, who also gave us Lost and Fringe, so I’d give it two seasons, maybe three, before it dissolves into an unfathomable murk of time travel, alternate universes and characters who turn out not to be dead after all to which Abrams turns when he runs out of actual ideas.
Until then, Almost Human is a tolerably silly sci-fi action show set in a Blade Runner-ish future where human cops are paired with robots to battle the high-tech gangs that have the run of the seedy streets. (Regrettably, the obvious question — do android cops dream of synthetic donut shops? — is never addressed.)
At the center of the action is angry, alienated Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban of The Lord of the Rings movies) who has just awakened from a 17-month coma, the result of a disastrous gang ambush in which he was shot to pieces. According to his personnel file, he’s suffering from “depression, mental atrophy, trauma onset, OCD, PTSD and psychological rejection of his synthetic body parts.” (Delicately, those parts go unlisted.)
Of course, that’s just the guy you want out on the streets, so Kennex’s boss (Lili Taylor, Six Feet Under) puts him back to work. Alas, unnoticed among Kennex’s many other psychological dysfunctions is a hatred of robot cops, who he regards as digital stool pigeons designed by the department brass to inform on their human partners.
After he tosses his first robot partner out of a patrol car onto a freeway, the department pairs him with an earlier model called Dorian (Michael Ealy, Last Vegas), that was programmed to have human emotions, including personal loyalty. Unmentioned: That line of robots was discontinued because they also developed a human tendency to go stark, raving mad. Hmm. A half-crazy human cop and a half-crazy robot partner — or as another officer snidely observes: “Two cops from the scrap heap.” What could possibly go wrong?
Almost Human has car chases and shootouts galore for the 18-to-34-And-Likes-Loud-Noises demographic, and a faintly sardonic sense of humor for the rest of us. After Kennex subtly interrogates one suspect by pounding his brains out, Dorian primly observes, “You just violated the crap out of that guy’s civil rights.” I can’t wait for the episode where R2D2 and C3P0 get picked up for questioning.