The premiere of “Almost Human” gave lead character John Kennex a pretty deep back story and set up a pretty rich world for its blend of science fiction and crime drama.
Monday’s (Nov. 18) second episode leaned much more to the cop-show side of the ledger, but it did set a possible template for how the show might balance its procedural elements with its character beats and serialized story.
“Everybody’s been so on about, is it a procedural or is it [not] — like it’s a dirty word,” creator J.H. Wyman, who’s coming off several years running the heavily serialized “Fringe,” says in an interview. “And I totally understand. It is, if you don’t care about characters. [Otherwise] why would you want to watch?”
But whereas Wyman saw “Fringe” as, at its core, a show about a family (albeit one in a pretty fantastical world), he says “Almost Human” is “legitimately a police show.”
“It would be really weird if a bunch of people in cop uniforms were hanging out at a diner all the time,” he says. “… There’s a lot of responsibility with the program. I want to tell stories that reach a large audience, I want them to love the show too. But I don’t want to alienate my fans and people who appreciate what I try to do and put my fingerprint on it. I really do believe that’s what those people respond to — my view of the world and how we are in it, my feelings about connection and stories you care about. I want to try to get all that in, but it’s a prime-time, big action show that needs to have cases. So through the cases we’ll know the characters.”
That was evident in Monday’s episode, “Skin,” in which Kennex (Karl Urban) and his android partner Dorian (Michael Ealy) investigate the abductions of several women and how it ties into the “sexbot” industry. Kennex bonds with the young son of an abductee — and later with the son of his late partner. He and Dorian also get to engage in some good buddy-cop banter, and there’s even a hint of attraction between Kennex and his colleague, Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly).
The case, and others to come, will by their nature deal with the darker side of humanity, but Wyman wants to show a more hopeful side to his vision of the near future as well.
“Somebody asked me in an interview, ‘Was “Blade Runner” the influence? Was [Isaac] Asimov?’ All of those people are,” he says. How can you not look at them and go — it’s almost like the Bible. I understand who they are, but I have a different take on the future. … I’m a hopeful person, and I really believe that some of those great artists were saying things like, ‘You f***ed up, humanity. Now you really have to pull it back.’ … I get why they told those stories, and they’re incredibly valuable stories. That’s not my story.”
As for how he reconciles that idea with the nature of a crime show, he says, “Nobody is ever going to promise anybody a life without any bumps. It’s what you do after the bumps, it’s what you do as a community after the bumps. … That’s the show. The idea that yeah, things are bad out there. If you go to a cop and ask, ‘How’s your life?,’ they have to have gallows humor or else they’d flip. You can’t care that much all the time or else you’d be destroyed. So it is all about the resiliency of the human spirit, and that’s what I’m interested in.”
What do you think of “Almost Human” so far?