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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

'Almost Human' S1 DVD: 'Scrubs' Meets 'Cagney and Lacey'

Almost Human: The Complete First Season
One of many spectacular things regarding the recent Warner Archive three-disc 13-episdoe DVD release of the first season of the Fox scifi action-adventure show "Almost Human" is that it demonstrates the value of DVD sets regarding taking a second shot at shows. A history of newer "mega-capacity" Tivos breaking down if the capacity is maintained at 40 percent or higher resulted in a purge earlier this year that included the unwatched recordings of the first several episodes of this series.

The DVD release provided an opportunity to see what was missed, and it was spectacular! Further, considering the unwarranted cancellation of this series, it is nice the exec. producers J.J. Abrams and the lesser-known J.H. Wyman of the highly creative Fox series "Fringe" end with an episode that is equally apt as a season and a series finale.

The opening credits of "Human" nicely summarize the concept of the series, which is that the scope and nature of criminal activity by 2048 has necessitated augmenting human police forces with androids. The soon-to-be reviewed 1980 scifi series "Beyond Westworld" provides an alternative version of the effect of letting advanced androids loose among the general populace.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the scene-laden trailer for "Human" includes a good sense of the lore and style of the series.

"Human" focuses on Det. John Kennex, who returns to active duty in the pilot following a long period of leave after leading an catastrophically botched raid. The only disappointment regarding casting Karl Urban, who plays Bones in the Abrams "Star Trek" reboot is that we never hear him utter any phrases such as "Damn it! I'm a detective, not a chauffeur."

An "accident" involving the MX model "synthetic" that is assigned to John early in the pilot results in pairing him with an earlier DRN model known as Dorian. The "flaws" regarding DRNs are that, like Data from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" using his emotion chip, DRNs have artificial feelings and emotions that caused some of them to go off the rails.

The naming of this pair John and Dorian is a wonderfully sly Abrams style reference to former "Must See" NBC sitcom "Scrubs," which centers around the life of "newbie" medical intern John Dorian. The fact that the best friend of that Dorian is black and that black actor Michael Ealy plays Dorian on "Human" is another nice nod to the earlier series.

Having the likable and (mostly) innocently intrusive Dorian annoy the rather grumpy and private-minded Kennex provides great entertainment in the numerous scenes of them riding around in Kennex's car. Highlights include Dorian using his tech. to issue Kennex a ticket for running a red light and noting that a scan of Kennex indicated an urgent need for sexual release are two of many highlights of that type of humor.

One of the most entertaining scenes of this type satisfies any curiosity regarding the extent to which Dorian is anatomically correct.

The overall theme of the crime-of-the-week that the 21st century version of Holmes and Yoyo investigate is that good tech. is adapted and/or co-opted for evil purposes. These include disgustingly enhancing the realism of encounters with sexbots, illegal cloning, a black market ring that uses artificial hearts for blackmail purposes, and the most extreme plastic surgery procedures ever.

A less prevalent theme relates to John learning more about the raid that impacted him so strongly professionally and personally. Flashback scenes of this event further partially explain the animosity that John feels regarding Artificial American officers.

Season  highlights include Dorian teaming up with an exact duplicate of himself to solve a case and enjoy the bonus of driving John crazy, wonderfully quirky lab rat Rudy being over zealous regarding going in the field on an undercover assignment, and the occasional blasting of an MX model into a tiny pieces.

The extra-special bonus features include deleted scenes and a film of a 2013 Comic-Con panel on  "Human."

The overall analysis of this view of the world 30 plus years in the future is that the degree of advanced tech. seems feasible and the depictions of people not properly utilizing tech. is very realistic in an era in which people use the Internet to watch cute videos of photos and hackers run amok in databases of the credit card information of customers.

The skill with which Abrams et al pull this off makes the lack of a second season disappointing. One can only hope both that "Gotham" is a worthy successor to "Human" in its former time slot and that the former gets a second season if it does its successor proud.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Human" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.