Pilot Preview: Fox's Robo Buddy-cop Drama Almost Human

By Tim Surette

Jul 03, 2013

Hey you! This isn't a review, it's a PREview. Huge difference. Most notably, the "P." Also, these PREviews are based on early cuts of pilots that might change drastically by the time they officially hit the air, so we can't properly review them. But we CAN give you an idea of what to expect. In this series of early looks at the new shows of fall 2013, there's no contemplating, no deep analysis; just super-duper quick thoughts on what we just watched that we're passing on to you. We'll revisit each previewed show in the fall with the hyper-intellectual breakdowns and fart jokes you're used to from us goons here at TV.com. 

Almost Human – Mondays starting November 4 at 8pm on Fox

STARRING AND CREATED BY: Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek), Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell, Common Law), Lili Taylor (Six Feet Under, Hemlock Grove), Mackenzie Crook (The Office U.K.Game of Thrones), Michael Irby (The Unit), and Minka Kelly (Friday Night LightsCharlie's Angels but let's pretend that never happened). J.H. Wyman (Fringe) created the series and wrote the pilot, and somebody named J.J. Abrams is on board as executive producer under his Bad Robot flag.

THE GIST: In 2048, crime in Los Angeles is TERRIBLE. Like, even worse than it is today, if you can believe that. Fortunately, technology has evolved fast enough to create androids that can partner up with human cops. A fleet of RoboCops? Sort of. John Kennex (Urban) is a tough copper and 100 percent human, with a thing against robots and their binary thinking. He's totally robophobic. Dorian (Ealy) is his new synthetic partner, a decommissioned model that's more emotional than the tin cans currently used on the force. Together, they fight bad guys and heavy-handedly examine the idea of artificial intelligence, the soul, and all that noise.

SNAP JUDGMENT: The trailer was one of this year's Upfronts WOWZA moments, instantly setting it apart from the rest of the competition, but the pilot doesn't quite live up to the lofty expectations. It's a mish-mash of things we've seen before and questions we've asked before, borrowing ideas from Alien Nation, RoboCop, and Blade Runner. It's also impossible not to compare Almost Human to Fringe given Wyman's involvement, and one key missing element is some sort of Walter Bishop character, someone who can act his ass off and provide hilarious moments of levity. However, it looks great and creates one of the best sci-fi universes television has seen. The positive takeaway is, despite a bumpy pilot, there's obviously a very entertaining series in here. Also, lighten up, Urban!

PILOTITIS DIAGNOSIS: Oh boy, this is very pilot-y! Exposition all over the place, and it's as predictable as the inevitable robot uprising because with all the setup, there isn't much time left over to get too tricky. But you know what? The Fringe pilot wasn't that great, either, and that show got a lot better. It will take time for Almost Human to find its footing, but when it does, it could be one mean robot-cop procedural.

FACES TO LOOK OUT FOR: Feel free to just stare at Minka Kelly's face, because hey, she's Minka Kelly and that's what she's here for. Mackenzie Crook (the wildling warg from Game of Thrones) also has a chance to become a known commodity in the U.S. after killing it in the U.K., but no one really jumps out as a breakout character or star from the pilot. 

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Holy crap there's a floating-wheel car thingy! It's just a giant tire! And it's on the freeway! Future phones are really, really wide screens. Fringe fans will appreciate some of the familiar-looking biotech weaponry.

EXCITEMENT LEVEL: Out of 10, we're looking at a 7 after watching the pilot, which is a few steps down from the 12 or 13 I was hoping for going in. But character-driven science-fiction shows take time to evolve, and we'd be dumb to not let this thing breathe before making a final judgment.

(Where we rank the fall season's pilots based on very early impressions)

1. Almost Human – J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman's robotic buddy cop drama

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  • MirelaPilipo Sep 10, 2013

    For me, the most discouraging thing about "Almost Human" is that it sounds too procedural. However, Fringe masqueraded as a sci-fi procedural for the majority of it's run and I have to agree, the pilot in fact the whole first season (except for the last 20 seconds) wasn't extraordinary television. I live in Australia and our TV scheduling sucks and Fringe bounced around time-slots and eventually even jumped networks, only to be completely pulled. I didn't start watching Fringe in real time (when I say real time, I mean I had to resort to downloading it) up until S4 and the only reason I gave it a shot was because one of my friends wouldn't shut up about it. "If you like Lost, you will LOVE Fringe." she kept insisting. She wouldn't tell me anything about it, just that I "had to" watch it. So after Lost ended, with her words still echoing, I thought ok I might as well give this Fringe-thing a go. All I knew about Fringe at the time, thanks to some very bad advertising, is that it was from J.J. and that every blurb made it sound an x-files rip off with an unknown female lead and the other guy from "Dawsons Creek". I must admit, I had my doubts and it took me a looong time to start watching it.
    So, during the s3 hiatus, I got the first 3 seasons on DVD and marathoned my way through it. I enjoyed it right away because I'm a sucker for sci-fi but I didn't fall completely head over heels bananas for it until S2's "Jacksonville". After that episode the show just went from "entertaining" to a life-changing awe-inspiring experience that felt like a roller-coaster ride all the way until the Season 3 finale. I wasn't just hooked, I was officially in love with Fringe. Deep, deep love! If I could've I would've and still would totally get married to Fringe! Yes, after a shaky start to Season 4 with a plot twist that I had many issues with, Fringe remains to be my favourite TV series and I've watched every episode countless times.
    I don't know if Fringe would've had such an impact, if I had watched it in real time. With all of the breaks and schedule changes, it probably wouldn't because those darn breaks really take away that momentum. I probably would've given up on Fringe after the first 5-6 episodes. But man, I am so glad I got the chance to experience it the way that I did: 3 seasons of uninterrupted Fringe-bingeing filled with mind-blowing revelations and unprecedented wow moments that completely changed my life! And by "changed my life" I mean, I became a straight-up Fringe addict and those characters are forever tattooed on my heart. Fringe: I love you!

    I know that Almost Human won't reach the epic heights that Fringe did and I am almost worried (that's the name of my new show, so stayed tuned) that I'll totally hate it. It sounds like its missing a lot of heart and character and even though I'm a sucker for sci-fi, shows win me over with their characters and the overall mythology and story. Based on the trailers and early reviews I just don't have a lot of hope in Almost Human. Of course that's exactly how I felt about Fringe before I watched it, so who knows? Maybe I'll wait and if Almost Human is still on in 2016, I'll marathon my way through the first 3 seasons and see what I think! ;)
    The truth is, I'll watch the pilot as soon as it airs (actually about 10 minutes after it airs counting download time) and I will give this show a chance because I like Wyman and J.J's daddy issues but I'm going into it with a unhealthy amount of fear and scepticism. That's just how I roll! ;-)

  • KateSullivan Aug 29, 2013

    This seems like an odd time and night for a show...in fact, hasn't this been a death knell time for FOX? I'm thinking Terra Nova and Alcatraz...based on one sentence alone will make me watch it (I hated the pilot of Fringe and just wrote off the show, one co worker kept telling me I would love it, I would love it then she frantically texted me on night and told me season three was starting to rerun on Saturdays and if I would agree to record season four which was starting, she promised I would love it...she was right, I have rewatched the pilot since and I actually would have felt like I plodded through the whole first season, but, well, damnit, I actually don't know if I can do it...I have to look at one of those calenders....

  • houbou Jul 31, 2013

    Gotta give it a try! :)

  • No1Slayerette Jul 09, 2013

    It's a science-fiction show, so I'll check it out. I'm looking for something more serialized though, and this looks like it'll be a more procedural fare.

  • ShaneEdser Jul 08, 2013

    Did you never watch Mann & Machine? Yancy Butler ring a bell? Hell she used to take her eye out and leave it places as a spy camera. She was also falling in love with her human cop partner.

  • KatrinaDobson Jul 06, 2013

    So Dr. McCoy has to play nice with a Spock want-to-be??? Cool, I can handle that.

  • bstolemyremote Jul 06, 2013

    This is our #1 most anticipated show for the fall. Even the trailer makes it look like it's doing a ton of exposition heavy lifting (naturally for pilots), so hopefully it will settle down and begin delivering the goods. On the plus side, the world looks well created/fleshed out so once the introductory deets are covered we can get into the goods.

    But yeah, Urban looks like he needs to lighten up for sure!

  • Linc-o Jul 06, 2013

    This is just a PRE-VIEW. That's why networks pre-release pilots, so they get tons of dumb comments and reviews so they re-write the pilots to make them dumber so dumb audiences watch them.

  • ludoTV Jul 05, 2013

    Like the idea - Robocop, Blade Runner etc. are great precedents and themes to explore humanity and plenty of other great philosophical issues while keeping the thing entertaining.

    If it is awful, it will be obvious very soon but otherwise it may still need a bit of time to find its footing... I found the beginning of Fringe underwhelming and then it got so much better so soon... I like both Ealy and Urban so no problems there.... Mackenzie Crook was hilarious in Pirates of the Caribbean

  • Dubst3p Jul 05, 2013

    Story seems alright. I just dont like Michael Ealy.

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