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Almost Human (2013)

I came into it with low expectations because i'm not the biggest J.J. Abrams fan, and i was pleasantly surprised that while the show isn't great, it's actually not bad.

The strength of the program comes from the amount of detail that's gone into constructing the universe in which it's set and how those details have been revealed. There are some great science-fiction elements to the world that may not be new ideas but are approached with a new spin. A spray-on-your-face liquid that makes your face invisible to cameras. A tiny toy giraffe that seems like just a solid wood miniature, but then acts like a live cute hamster when you press it on its head. The dialog writing is also pretty decent, stuff that flows pretty naturally. There are times when the witty/funny one-offs seem misplaced, but those are minor, and there's particularly great dialogue chemistry between the two male leads in both the important plot-moving stuff, the character-building stuff, and the funny exchanges.

Where the show falls short is that while some of the characters have potential for depth, ultimately all of them are incredibly one-dimensional. The show tries to advertise the leads as edgy - Dorian is the discontinued android model that was decommissioned because he was emotionally unstable, and John Kennex is the out-of-practice cop who "plays by his own rules, man" - but in practice they don't come off as edgy or with any real character flaws, they come off as dedicated cops who are apparently the only two in the world that can think outside of the box. The rest of the main cast wears neon signs on their foreheads - Valerie's always-perfect-make-up-no-matter-where-she-is flashes "damsel-in-distress/love interest", Richard's flashes "alpha male competitor to John", the captain's flashes "hard but fair, strong but vulnerable", and Rudy's flashes, "brilliant but quirky scientist". And never at any point do those characters stray from those assigned traits.

While the big picture plot conflicts have shown off some interesting technology, the conflicts themselves have been bland, boiling down to bad guys being bad guys and good guys being good guys with no moral ambiguity or gray whatsoever, and to me that's almost in direct conflict with the amount of graphical violence and death in the show. It comes across as one kid on another kid's shoulder wearing a big trenchcoat trying to get into an R rated movie - it tries to pass itself off as being adult, but ultimately the show is a children's show where the audience is supposed to accept at face value that all cops are good and all crooks are bad.

still, it's entertaining and interesting enough that i'll probably finish out the first season and see where it goes. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had similar bland issues through its first ten episodes (with one exception), but episodes 11 and 12 were pretty stellar signature Joss Whedon greatness that made it all worthwhile, so maybe i'll similarly warm up to this show more as the season progresses.

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