'Almost Human' series premiere: The future looks familiar

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karl-urban-almost-human-premiere.jpgThe premiere of "Almost Human," like a lot of pilot episodes, had a lot of heavy lifting to do  -- but at the same time, it felt pretty familiar.

On the one hand, Sunday's (Nov. 17) series premiere had to introduce lead character John Kennex ( Karl Urban), the near-future world he inhabits and Dorian ( Michael Ealy), the decommissioned android brought back into circulation to be his partner. It also had to sketch in supporting characters and provide a plot-moving case.

But because all of that is set within the framework of that most familiar of TV genres, a cop show, the establishment of all those things is a little easier. The audience has seen a thousand driven, loner detectives before, and a thousand partners who act as the yang to that yin. We can anticipate some of the story beats, and therefore don't need to be led by the hand as Kennex and Dorian get to know one another.

Sci-fi fans have seen some of this before too -- "Almost Human" borrows liberally from "Blade Runner" in both style and substance (see: the unease Kennex and others have with androids, called synthetics here).

None of that is to say that "Almost Human" feels just like the same-old, same-old. Creator J.H. Wyman ("Fringe"), who wrote the premiere, does enough work with Kennex and Dorian to make them feel like lived-in characters, and he doesn't try to overwhelm us with all the future-tense aspects of this world. It's a tricky balance to pull off, but Wyman manages it pretty well.

There is still work to do -- Urban plays taciturn and scowly very well, but you can't really build a series around that. It also remains to be seen how well the show will balance its cases of the week and its longer-term stories. Wyman has talked frequently about using "NYPD Blue" as a touchstone, which is encouraging, but also tough to pull off.

But it's off to a decent start. What did you think of the "Almost Human" premiere?
Photo/Video credit: FOX