There's a new show on FOX called Almost Human and it's about the future! Not the distant future like Year 3168 but the near-future future of 2048 when people will have iPhone 12's. Still exciting, but not in a whole-new-world kind of way.
The show is a big deal not because of the premise (buddy cops!) but because of who's behind it: executive producers J.J. Abrams, J.H. Wyman, Bryan Burk, Kathy Lingg, Reid Shane, Brad Anderson, the Ohio State University Marching Band, and the Rockettes. When the cast of executive producers is larger than the actual cast, you know it's gonna be a quality product.
The show premiers on November 17th with a cliffhanger that will
emotionally manipulate compel you into watching the second half on November 18th. (Spoiler: The hero probably survives.) But just because the show hasn't even aired yet doesn't mean that we can't re-cap with a pre-cap based on all the trailers, tweets, and live events that have been marketed at us for months.
Here's what we know:
The premise: Renegade cop John Kennex (henceforth known as "Kleenex") hates computers and conformity but loves delivering a delightful bon mot at just the right moment a la McBain from The Simpsons. He is the ACTION HERO. He looks like a cross between Robert Wagner from Hart to Hart and Joey from Friends.
Thanks to wide screen televisions, all actors now have to have super wide faces and, in that regard, Kleenex doesn't disappoint (I'm surprised his headshot isn't in landscape).
New regulations require all cops to be partnered with a robot, but Kleenex hates the new model of robots that are too binary for his taste, so he throws his robo-partner in the trash and orders a new one from Amazon. He gets a new partner-bot called Dorian (STRAIGHT MAN SIDEKICK) who looks like Lenny Kravitz with short hair and inhumanly beautiful blue eyes. He has a tendency to up-speak his lines, which no regular black guy would do so you know he's a robot. (They probably named him Dorian because he's supposed to be some kind of reflection of Kleenex's humanity, blah, blah, Dorian Gray, blah, blah.)
But he's not just any robot. He is a robot with actual FEELINGS and ATTITUDE, an older model that was discontinued by the police because they probably didn't like it when the black robots got all mouthy what with their sassy backtalk and all. Dorian is Hobbes to Kleenex's Calvin. Kleenex sees the world in black and white while Dorian and his liberal arts emotions create space for ... gray. Dorian Gray! Ta daaaaa! Fun!
So because racism still exists in the future, the Dorian line of black androids was replaced by an all-white, narrow-eyed upgrade of the MX variety that are far less attractive than the Dorian bots. This one little tidbit of backstory can be rich with humor. A whole batch of MX robots can break bad and start a gang called MX-13. A newer, more expensive model can come out in gold. All of them can do the Siri voice. Dorian has an adapter that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the car. I WANT MY ROBOT JOKES.
Certainly, there's got to be more to the show than just a bunch of good-looking cops with incredible bone structure solving street crimes. And there is! There's the chief of police with an entire wall of LCD screens behind her which are supposed to make her look powerful but instead serve as a pretty good metaphor for how we're letting technology completely overshadow our humanity and destroy our actual souls. There's sexy Detective Stahl who, like most sexy female cops on tv, wears her badge on her belt because if she wore it on her shirt, it would block her cleavage. And there's another detective on the force who just hates Kleenex and wishes he were dead but no matter how hard he tries, Kleenex comes out on top. And who are they all fighting? Why, the faceless crime network called The Syndicate, of course! How shadowy and foreboding! (That isn't a dig against the writers. I'm sure they wanted to call The Syndicate something else scary, but "ConAgra" and "Tea Party" were already taken.)
The opening scene of the trailer is most likely the opening scene of the pilot - it begins in first-person perspective and you (the viewer) are holding an AK-47 like you're playing Call of Duty (13-24-year-old male demographic? Check!). The scene then changes back to normal and you see that Kleenex is in a shoot-out which one character calls an ambush. (Don't know what "ambush" means? Five seconds later, another character redundantly yells, "It's a trap!") It's hard to tell if they thought viewers were too stupid to know what "ambush" meant or if they think we're smart enough to get the Star Wars reference.
I was curious if I'd be able to tell the difference between humans and their android partners, but make-up and the stilted mathspeak dialogue that the MX androids use took care of that pretty quickly. I'll paraphrase a sample of the opening scene:
Erickson is down! I'm going to save him!
PASTY WHITE HUMAN-LOOKING COP
Do not proceed. Likelihood of failure: 87.6 percent. Beep.
I'm not letting some 6-foot-tall Galaxy Note III tell me what to do! Auugghhhh!!
Kleenex rushes ahead to save his friend and in that act creates the moment that changes his life forever and turns him into the man he is destined to become. (Not to spoil anything.)
In two scenes of the same trailer, the robot disagrees with its human counterpart's impulses, but the human proceeds anyway, and that's how the show demonstrates our humanity. (By hating math? By risking it all? By ignoring facts and going with feelings? Not sure!) Basically, the MX androids are pessimists who are less likely to take risks and the humans are optimists who think we should always take risks when someone's life is at stake. In that way, the emotionless MX androids may be an even better foil to show our humanity than the emotionful Dorian robot.
The MX androids may not have Dorian's big, beautiful blue eyes, but they might reflect a more accurate picture: we're not as pretty as we think. Just a pasty-faced, beady-eyed little race of people hoping we live up to the technology that we've built around us.
Is that one of the messages of the series or am I grasping? We find out together on November 17th.
Follow Chris Doucette on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chris_doucette