Make Almost Human the Show It Deserves to Be

The new Fox show Almost Human has the perfect ingredients to become a great series. But I think its makers should do some things a bit differently to actually achieve that. In this article you can read why I think Almost Human should learn from Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, and ignore Homeland’s last season.

How I Got into Watching Shows
It wasn’t until I first saw Homeland that I became a fanatic watcher of shows. I had seen Band of Brothers and an occasional episode of a random sitcom, but thought it to be a bad idea to seriously start watching a show that has been on air for several seasons. There was a thesis that needed completion and these series would only be distracting. Nevertheless, a friend of mine pushed me to give Homeland a try and a couple of days later withdrawal symptoms kicked in because season three wouldn’t be on for another six months. Other people told me it’s nothing but a human trait.

Fortunately (for me, not neccessarily for my beloved,) there were other shows to check out. After Homeland came the greatness of Game of Thrones, and when the inhabitants of Westeros went on another ten month vacation, a new semester started at J.P. Wynne High School. Soon it was clear to another ‘Breaking Bad Junkie’ why Walter White and Jesse Pinkman managed to keep millions glued to the screen. Well, that’s not the full story. The realization of the answer to that question arrived later, with a new show that promised to wonder about what it means to be human.

Almost Human: Where the Future of the History Becomes the History of the Future
The last couple of weeks I have been watching Almost Human. The new Science fiction show on Fox about a human crime fighter (with an artifical leg) who is forced to work together with an android partner. Filled with potentially annoying references to sf movies from the 20th century (e.g. Blade Runner, Total Recall, Robocop, and Star Wars), that actually make it even more fun to watch. John Kennex, the officer, is played by Karl Urban. Dorian, the cyborg, is portrayed by Michael Ealy. The show’s first episode introduces Kennex and the memory loss he’s suffering from.

Apparently, he and his team were ambushed by a gang called the Insyndicate, but a lot of the details are missing. To solve this, Kennex visits a ‘memory retriever’ to recollect scattered remembrances of the ambush and a disappeared ex-girlfriend, whom he still has a video message from. To make things worse, he remembers that one of the android cops refused to save his human partner, who was severely wounded. Calculations told the android that it would be better to leave the partner and save other humans. A perfect premise for a philosophical action series about a moody cop who dislikes androids. The pilot appealed to me and I was – and still am – happy to watch the show, but I am a bit worried.

Three Elements of a Good Show
Before I explain the show’s problems, let me be clear: I think Almost Human is a great show. The futuristic vibe, the cool characters, the interactions between Kennex and Dorian, and the versatility of a criminal world dominated by technology in the not-so-distant future that could be our reality in a couple of decades, are the perfect ingredients for a great Science fiction show. But perfect ingredients don’t make a perfect stew if the chef is not using them right. And Almost Human runs the risk of making the same mistake as the makers of Homeland season three.

There is an important difference: J.H. Wyman said that Almost Human is not necessarily intended to have a high level of serialization. This is totally different for Homeland. But what Homeland partly failed to bring in the third season, is exactly what makes Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad great shows: strong, realistic relationships between multidimensional, developing characters, a clear and (implicitly) sensible, but not too obviously present thread, and suspense. At the moment, I get the impression that these are not immediate priorities for the team behind Almost Human.

Is this a result of what George R.R. Martin pointed out when he said that the rational and calculating machinery of big broadcasting companies dislikes complexity and evolution? If so, that’s a shame: the pilot episode offered a perfect premise for an evolving show. As far as I am concerned, it would mean a missed opportunity if Mr. Wyman decides to go on with just another staccato police series that happens to be situated in the future. It has so much more potential. Why would we fear to take each other seriously? Because of rational TV Ratings predictions? I guess we’re almost human.

2 thoughts on “Make Almost Human the Show It Deserves to Be

  1. I’m not sure how much this is Wyman’s doing as FOX has mucked up the airing order for the show so a run of highly procedural type episodes were set together. We are getting back into the the bigger picture in January, most notably the head from the pilot in the evidence room and Dorian’s past. I hope fans are willing to stick around for when we actually get to those eps in January and February. FOX should have left things alone and let it air as it was intended.
    Great article by the way, I agree and its a shame about what happened to Homeland.

  2. It is flawed, yes. But it shows enough promise to make you believe that those flaws are fixable. My biggest gripe with the show would have to be the lack of a season stretching story arc. Until now it’s been a strictly serial affair, presenting standalone episodes wherein everything gets wrapped up within the given timeframe. And that directly feeds into your biggest issue with the show: lack of depth. As long as they continue on this episodic path, there will be no real development. The producers and writers need to let go of the format, and try to approach it from a mini-series standpoint. They got the characters, they got the general feel of their surroundings (that version of the future), but now it’s time for plot. Something that will let the characters open up, or evolve. That’s my two cents.

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