Warner Brothers was serving up sample platter on Thursday night to turn the public onto three of their new shows: Almost Human (the latest from Fringe writer J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams), The 100 (which comes with a tie-in book series), and The Tomorrow People (CW doing its CW thing). There was also a sneak peek at Alfonso Cuarón’s new television project, Believe.
Here are the verdicts! Spoilers for the basic premises of each show below, but if you want the short version—Almost Human: YES. Believe: Probably yes, too. The 100: Uh... maybe-ish. The Tomorrow People: ...Ugh.
Almost Human: This show begins with the sweeping idea that in the future, the advancements in weapon causes crime to skyrocket 400%, which leads to cops being paired with robot partners; they call them synthetics. So yeah, that sounds pretty trite, but moving on—Karl Urban is a cop (it’s going to take forever to make a new Star Trek movie, so he’s gotta have something to do, right?) named John Kennex whose human partner was left to die by the robots on a raid because he was too badly injured. Kennex got his whole unit killed, had his leg blown off, and was in a coma for 17 months. When he wakes up, he can’t remember what happened in the raid, so he’s getting illegal medical treatments to jog his memory.
He was trying to take down a nasty group called The Syndicate, which the cops still haven’t gotten any further along with. So the woman in charge (Hi, Lily Taylor! You are the best!) yanks Kennex back onto the force, even though he’s an irascible bastard suffering from PTSD who keeps rejecting his shiny new robot leg as a part of his body. She makes him take a robot partner—he really doesn’t want one—and gets him to work on a case that she thinks is the Syndicate’s work.
Sounds pretty boring so far, huh?
Well, Kennex pushes his first robot partner out of his car onto a highway, so he needs to get a new one. (I did say he was an irascible bastard.) He goes to Mackenzie Crook (aw, yes) to get a different robot friend that will hopefully annoy him less. Crook gives him a robot from a retired series, one that was created with emotions in mind, unlike the current models. The DRN series was retired because they could break, just like humans, but Crook wants to revive one. Kennex’s new partner is named Dorian (Michael Ealy, just being his baffling, perfect self).
Suddenly everything gets interesting, and not just because Dorian is supposed to be the robot, yet easily projects the most emotion out of anyone in the cast. (His eyes are consistently breaking my heart over and over, and I don’t even know why.) We know that robots are often used an analog for prejudice in science fiction; we use huamnity’s fear of future technology to underscore racism, homophobia, sexism and much more. But this time, instead of having everyone fear Spock’s green blood and Vulcan ears, a black man is actually allowed to play the part, which throws these themes into sharp relief. For instance, when Kennex rudely refers to Dorian as a synthetic, Dorian’s response is, “Synthetic... I’m not a huge fan of that term.” The audience at the screening burst into ironic giggles, everyone aware of the social commentary and clearly keen on it being addressed so blatantly.
Kennex’s insistence on treating Dorian like a piece of hardware rather than a person for once calls real attention to problems that still plague us, and shows them exactly as they are in the real world—just with a few words exchanged. As we see their partnership grow and change, even in the first episode, it’s easy to see what sets Almost Human apart from other similar shows and stories. There are some great stylistic echoes, too. The world they occupy looks like a light Total Recall/Blade Runner mashup. There are a couple of very specific Blade Runner shout-outs, in fact, that are sure to tickle fans. I don’t know where the show is headed, or what its weekly format will fall into, but they’ve already got me on the line. Almost Human premieres on November 4 on Fox.
Verdict—Don’t miss this one.
Believe: The teaser for this one was striking. It’s about a young girl with special super powers of some kind, the only one in the world. Her foster parents are killed because some mean people are trying to kidnap her, so a group of nice people bust some guy out of jail to serve as her protector. That is honestly all we were given. Who knows what will happen with this one, but having Alfonso Cuarón’s name attached fills one with confidence, and did I mention the tiny girl with awesome powers? I think there is going to be a tiny girl with awesome powers, which I am always in favor of.
Verdict—Keep an eye out.
The 100: This show is tied into a YA book series release, which is always less assuring than it being based on one. It’s a standard dystopia premise—Earth was destoryed by nuclear war, 12 countries had space stations when it happened (thank goodness), so some people survived and built their own civilization up there. They are waiting 100 years until the Earth is safe to occupy. Because they don’t exactly have enough resources, their rules are very strict; if you break even a tiny one as a juvenile, you go to prison. Do it as an adult and you’re airlocked.
So they decide to throw 100 of the kids in prison onto a ship and send them planetside after only 97 years to see if they can survive. One of the girls who goes down knows everything about everything because her mom is a scientist and her dad was the chief engineer. He’s dead because he found out that the colony only had a few months left of resources and was going to tell the population. Airlocked.
Behold lots of teen sterotypes: Brainy princess! Sexy vamp! Awkward lovable nerd! Noble straightlaced kid! Bender! (He’s sort of nicer than the Breakfast Club’s resident criminal, but he even sorta looks like the guy—they have the same hair.) And don’t forget all the bullies!
So what you have is a kind of BSG meets Lord of the Flies situation. The adults are monitoring from above using special bracelet-tech to see if the kids survive because they want to make sure it’s safe for everyone else. The adults have some problems because Councillor Kane really wishes he could be Chancellor and kill lots of people. (Obviously—his name is Kane.) The show has some cute moments, and it will likely appeal to the junior high set without much difficulty, so there’s that. But not much else. The 100 should premiere sometime mid-season on The CW.
Verdict—Eh, give it a try if you’re curious.
The Tommorow People: Okay, I know, CW again. When CW has a good thing, they know how to work it. This is, honestly, not one of those times.
Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) has this sleepwalking problem that is totally not a sleepwalking problem. He’s actually one of the “Tomorrow People,” (don’t worry, they didn’t pick their own name, so it’s okay that it’s lame) which makes him part of the next stage of human evolution. (No, they’re not X-Men, you can just cut that out right now.) A group of those crazy kids find him and tell him all about it; they’ve got the “three T” powers: teleportation, telepathy, and telekinesis. They want to get him on board because Stephen’s dad was the toughest Tomorrow Dude, but he’s been missing for forever. Stephen would know because dad walked out on him and fam years and years ago, and he’s never forgiven the guy.
Mark Pellegrino (Hi, Satan from Supernatural! I missed you!) plays this evil besuited guy named Jedikiah Price, who runs an organization trying to rid Tomorrow Kids of their powers using science beause they’re just too dangerous. He is Stephen’s surprise uncle that Stephen never knew about, so there’s a weird Hamlet-y angle being played here, too. Also, Stephen is the most powerful Tomorrow Bairn because he has powers none of them have ever manifested, like the ability to stop time, which results in the only cool scene in entire episode. Everyone is super impressed by his abilities at Tomorrow Camp, which may end up starting a torturous love triangle between himself and Tomorrow Camp Counselors, Cara and John.
It’s like they just threw the kitchen sink in, rolled their eyes, and walked away on this one. Oh no, savior boy with daddy issues in a love triangle while he struggles to save his people and become the greatest badass who ever lived! I have totally never seen this before! I have totally never seen this with similar manifesting powers before! Look, you can tell me that this sounds sort of similar enough to Sam and Dean Winchester, but at least those boys are seriously burdened, and angst-ridden and never having any fun. This kid’s all, “Ah, me! Finally, to be the most special, like I always knew I could be!” Great, Steve. I’m real happy for you.
The Tomorrow Crew also have a fake-JARVIS computer named Tim, which makes me rage because if you’re not Paul Bettany, just get out. On the upside, they film it in New York, so NYC denizens will have fun spotting places they know. The Tomorrow People is on the CW every Wednesday night at 8pm.
Verdict—Only watch it if you’ve had a lot to drink, and even then only if you suddenly discover you have the ability to teleport.
And that’s a wrap, folks! What are you excited for?
Emily Asher-Perrin just loves robots stories, dammit, so Dorian instantly became her favorite, and now she is permanently invested in his safety and well-being. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.