Television review

Future looks bright for Fox’s ‘Almost Human’

 
 
ALMOST HUMAN: Detectives played by Karl Urban, left, and Michael Ealy are dispatched to investigate a murder and high-profile missing persons case in the series premiere.
ALMOST HUMAN: Detectives played by Karl Urban, left, and Michael Ealy are dispatched to investigate a murder and high-profile missing persons case in the series premiere.
Fox

San Francisco Chronicle

Almost Human may convince you it’s almost a hit when it finally premieres on Sunday night.

The sci-fi police procedural was originally planned for a Nov. 4 bow, but that date was pushed back to give Bones a few more Monday slots. No matter: The pilot, which airs Sunday before the show assumes its regular Monday slot the next day, reminds us that good things are worth waiting for.

Karl Urban ( Lord of the Rings trilogy) plays dectective John Kennex, the only survivor when his squad is ambushed by an out-of-control crime syndicate sometime in the future. Having spent two years in a coma as doctors replaced various parts of his body lost in the ambush, he wakes up ready to avenge the deaths of his squad members and find out why his girlfriend has disappeared.

But the world has changed in two years, and because the crime rate has risen by 400 percent, every human cop is now required to have an android partner. Kennex gets a nagging, by-the-book companion who cramps his style enough to warrant a replacement. (He has a novel way of creating a vacancy in the post, which is one of the pilot’s many delightful moments.)

There are no versions of the current standard android available, but the department’s android master, Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook, the British version of The Office), can re-activate a discontinued variety called a DRN. These mechanical men were created to be as human as androidly possible, and that made them subject to emotional reactions.

In other words, they were known as “crazy” and promptly retired.

Kennex’s new pal is named Dorian (Michael Ealy, Barbershop), who, after being dusted off and fired up again, is ready to prove to the cops that he should be a full-fledged member of the force.

Dorian and Kennex don’t hit it off well at first. For one thing, Kennex keeps calling his partner “a synthetic.” (“There’s that word again,” Dorian growls.) But when the pair are sent by their captain, Maldonado (Lili Taylor, Six Feet Under), to investigate the apparent return of the masked gang that ambushed Kennex two years earlier, the teammates find they’re made for each other.

The show was created by J.H. Wyman ( Fringe). He also wrote the script for the pilot, which efficiently telegraphs the two big reasons Almost Human has a good chance of succeeding: It captures the teeming bleakness of the future world and establishes winning chemistry between Kennex and Dorian.

The performances are spot-on, and it’s gratifying to see Ealy better utilized after being wasted in the dopey USA show Common Law. The action scenes are terrific, and the well-executed special effects, makeup and costumes contribute to the convincing look of the dark, crime-ridden city of the future.

Judging from the pilot, Almost Human’s future on Fox is fairly bright.

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