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The Times
Columnist and author Melissa Crawley writes about what's hot on TV.
‘Almost Human’ is almost really good
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About this blog
Melissa Crawley has a PhD in media studies from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Her book: Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's \x34The West Wing\x34 was published in 2006. She has also published work online ...
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TV Reviews
Melissa Crawley has a PhD in media studies from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Her book: Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's \x34The West Wing\x34 was published in 2006. She has also published work online at PopMatters and Flow as well as chapters in the edited collections: The American President in Popular Culture and The Great American Makeover. Her weekly syndicated television column, Stay Tuned, is part of GateHouse News Service. Follow her on Twitter @melissacrawley
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By smal3082
Dec. 9, 2013 12:16 a.m.



Early in the first episode of “Almost Human,” Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban), throws his partner out of a speeding car. The unfortunate guy bouncing down the highway is a battle-ready MX-43 android, required partners of all police in the year 2048. Kennex is back on the job after having been in a 17 month coma. All he remembers is that his partner was killed in a horrific attack on their unit and he lost one of his legs which has been replaced with a synthetic limb. Oh, and he really, really hates robots.

“Almost Human” is a police procedural with a cyborg twist. In 2048, cops fight technology savvy criminals with the help of very strong and very logical androids. The MX-43 is the newest generation in robot fighters, having replaced an earlier model which was discontinued due to its emotional responses. Kennex needs a new partner who he won’t throw out a moving vehicle so technician Rudy Lom, played by the funny Mackenzie Crook, reanimates one DRN model from the previous generation, in the hope that the android’s “almost human” qualities will connect with Kennex.

The DRN, called “Dorian,” (Michael Ealy) quickly bonds with his skeptical new partner by demonstrating that he’s not merely a machine who looks human. He makes decisions that the MX-43 would consider illogical. He feels empathy and sadness. He has a sense of humor. Ealy plays Dorian with a believable curiosity and longing for a world that he’s both part of and apart from. It’s not a unique characterization of an android but thanks to Ealy’s skill and the reality of Dorian’s predicament, it’s affective.

Kennex is a little harder to get excited about simply because Urban plays him as the “battle-scarred policeman who secretly has a heart.” While it helps the buddy cop dynamic by creating a relationship between two opposite people, it’s a typical approach that keeps him from becoming a complex or layered character. Thanks to his leg, Kennex is now part android but his search for his humanity needs more depth. He either needs to fight his synthetic self more or embrace its benefits. Where Dorian’s conflict feels passionate, Kennex’s feels a little lifeless.

Typical of a police procedural, the action follows the duo as they investigate crimes and so far, their cases are entertaining. In the second episode, they solve a murder involving sex-bots who are just what they sound like. What’s slightly less successful is Kennex’s awkward crush on Detective Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly), but I suspect their relationship will grow as the series develops. The show also needs more tech. One of the best parts of stories set in the future is all the cool things people can do. “Almost Human” wants to ground itself in a future reality rather than a future fantasy. It’s not a bad thing but definitely not as fun as it could be.

“Almost Human” is on Mondays at 8 p.m. EDT on Fox.

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