• July 29, 2014

‘Almost Human’ almost really good

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Posted: Friday, November 15, 2013 4:30 am

While Fox long ago announced the J.J. Abrams-backed series “Almost Human” as part of its fall lineup, the network decided more recently to give it a boost with regards to its most likely audience: young men.

Make no mistake. “Almost Human” is designed with the male viewer in particular in mind. It stars Karl Urban — Bones in the most recent “Star Trek” movies — as John Kennex, a tough cop in 2048, where human police are teamed with robot partners. As the series begins, Kennex has become part robot himself after a brutal attack, which put him in a coma and forced replacement of his leg with a mechanized one. Though not a fan of robots, he is eventually paired with Dorian (Michael Ealy), an older model with more emotion and insight than later ’bots. In other words, a maverick cop has been teamed with a maverick robot — and each is “almost human.”

That description alone should get a lot of potential viewers’ inner boys jumping up and down. But Fox wants those boys to find the show. So, instead of simply launching “Almost Human” in its regular time slot, Fox will show the pilot episode at 7 p.m. Sunday, where it will follow the network’s late-afternoon NFL coverage most places. Then another episode will air at 7 p.m. Monday, the program’s regular time slot. (“Bones” has moved to Fridays.)

That programming strategy is not perfect. For one thing, viewers of Fox’s NFL coverage might have robot exhaustion (or irritation) because of the creature Cleatus the network has inserted into football for years. But you don’t have to watch football to see “Almost Human,” and that drama might prove worth your time.

The big reason is Ealy. The former star of “Sleeper Cell” and “Common Law” makes a smart, very cool Dorian, and it’s clear pretty quickly that he is not merely the smarter half of the team but the less-damaged one. Kennex, Fox said, has “depression, mental atrophy, trauma-onset OCD, PTSD and the ‘psychological rejection of his synthetic body part.’” Unfortunately, in Urban all that seems to boil down to crankiness.

Nor do supporting players like Lili Taylor and Minka Kelly and a serialized-mystery element add much. But, in the pilot at least, Ealy is a character worth revisiting.

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