At first glance, "Almost Human" has a little "Total Recall"/"Blade Runner" going on. And while that might make the new Fox show seem dated, on the contrary, the futuristic cop series works because there is absolutely nothing like it on television. Sure, the buddy cop genre has been tackled to death, as has the partners-who-clash concept, but "Almost Human" is so delightfully different because of two very important things: the impeccable writing and the two leads.
Karl Urban ("Star Trek") and Michael Ealy ("Common Law," another cop dramedy that centred on feuding partners -- but didn't work) make a wonderful team as Det. John Kennex and android Dorian, respectively. There were hiccups initially, of course. In Sunday's premiere, John was apprehensive of any robot partner and we understood why, but after tossing his latest robo-partner out of the car, he was eventually paired with Dorian and they seem to be a match made in high-tech heaven (well, a 2048 heaven filled with hovercraft cars, emotionless androids and a scary amount of crime). The series delves into the idea of humanity becoming more reliant on technology -- a little unnerving since the show takes places a mere 35 years from now. Whenever I see shows or movies set in a troubled future, I prefer when they take place long past a time I will ever see. Just me?
Kennex returned to police life after being in a coma, and it's uncertain whether the images he gets from a recollectionist for 17 months are real or blended thoughts. Dorian, programmed with emotions and attitude and a personality, seems more human than his human partner. It begs the question of who (or what, as the case may be) is more human -- the guy stuck in the past with a leg whose synthetic calibration is never complete, or the synthetic physical robot who really seems to feel things? What's funny is that Urban and Ealy could have easily swapped roles; Urban's steely gaze can be mistook for robotic while Ealy is much more used to emoting. It would be easy to dislike Urban's Kennex because of how stiff he is, thus far. He's the third law enforcer on TV (in shows that I watch, at least) who seems rigid and impenetrable, but I'm hoping as episodes go by, Kennex will be more like "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."s Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) than "The Blacklist"s one weak link, Agent Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff). Dorian, on the other hand, is freakin' awesome. I'd describe him as adorable but that's belittling how great he is and how beautifully Ealy is playing him.
It also helps that the writing is on-point, whether it's the banter between Kennex and Dorian or the almost sweet exchanges between the cop and his superior, Capt. Sandra Maldonado (Lili Taylor, "Hemlock Grove"). J.J. Abrams' shows are known for their witty dialogue and "Almost Human," created and executive-produced by "Fringe" showrunner J.H. Wyman, is another wonderful addition.
In Sunday's pilot, the first part of the two-night series premiere, we encounter The Syndicate, a group of gangsters out to kill cops (among many, many others) and that will likely be an ongoing fight for Kennex and his precinct, which include Det. Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly, "Friday Night Lights"), Det. Richard Paul (Michael Irby, "The Unit") and technical expert Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook, "The Office"). I can see the writers exploring a romance between Kennex and Stahl, while things will continue to grow tense between Kennex and Paul (whose character is reminiscent of Kevin Alejandro's Arroyo on the now-defunct "Golden Boy"). Thankfully, as the first hour went by, Dorian already began to grow on Kennex (honestly, Dorian's impossible to dislike) as they worked together to find members of the shady organization hellbent on killing off police.
In the second part, "Skin," which airs tonight, Kennex and Dorian investigate a murder and high-profile missing persons and "Almost Human" delves into the world of sexbots. Because why not?
Like "Fringe," Bad Robot's other sci-fi series, "Almost Human" is filled with cool effects (like goopy burned-off faces) and it's clear they didn't skimp on production values. But can it maintain the high quality? There aren't many shows right now that look like "Almost Human," but what's best about it is it doesn't necessarily need it. The series can stand on its own without all the makeup and is just as impressive. Hands down, one of the best new fall shows. Its only issue? That it took two months to debut.
"Almost Human" premieres in its regular timeslot tonight at 8 p.m. EST on Global and Fox.