Friday, November 15, 2013

Five Shows And A Movie To Watch Before 'Almost Human'

Fox’s futuristic police procedural Almost Human premieres this Sunday and Monday, November 17 and 18 respectively, and not only does it look like a badass new sci-fi joint, the show boasts a ton of big time creative power as well. Behind the scenes you’ll recognize names like J.J. Abrams, who is directing a little movie we like to call Star Wars: Episode VII, and J.H. Wyman, the showrunner behind Fringe. On screen, there’s Bones McCoy himself, the new incarnation of him anyway, Karl Urban, Lily Taylor from The Conjuring, and Friday Night Lights’ Minka Kelly, among others.

Before you dive head first into a brand new series, we thought you might like to spend the weekend preparing, stretching your mental facilities as it were. You don’t want to pull a hammy on game day, do you? With that in mind, here are a few series, and one movie, that may serve as a good jumping off point for Almost Human. Many of the shows are short-lived affairs, or at least lived lives where they burned the proverbial twice as bright, but only half as long. Let’s hope Almost Human doesn’t go that route, we could use some long, sustained sci-fi on our televisions.

Since Almost Human is producer/showrunner J.H. Wyman’s first venture post-Fringe, the paranormal police procedural is a natural starting place. Though the show only lasted five seasons, it left a mark—it inspired steadfast devotion in fans, even though it was never a ratings juggernaut—and many fans hope that Wyman’s latest follows in similar aesthetic footsteps. He did say that he was writing parts on Almost Human for some of his favorite Fringe alums. Chronicling the adventures of FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), reformed con man Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), and his mad scientist father Walter Bishop (John Noble), Fringe follows the team as they plumb the depths of pseudo-science, dealing with monsters, jumping dimensions, and saving multiple universes at the same time. The show is a great blend of weirdness, drama, and heart, and ranks up there with my all-time favorites

Mann & Machine
Surely I’m not the only one out there with fond memories of the 1992 series Mann & Machine, though judging by the truncated life of the series—nine total episodes, but NBC pulled it off the air after four—there aren’t many of us. Short as it may be—and good luck tracking it down if you’re interested in checking it out—the premise may sound familiar to you. In a near future Los Angeles, detective Bobby Mann (David Andrews) is a hard-nosed cop who plays by his own rules. He also hates robots, so who better to partner with Eve Edison (Yancy Butler), a hot new humanoid automaton? Wackiness ensues as Mann’s new sidekick learns the intricacies of social interaction and how to navigate the tricky seas of human emotion. As you can imagine, this is the sort or situation where Mann is going to picks up some very important lessons about what it really means to be human in the first place, all from the most unlikeliest of sources, his sexy robotic partner that he kind of wants to bang.

Flash Forward
Speaking of network genre programs that barely got off the ground, how about ABC’s Flash Forward? Before being cast as the too-human-for-comfort synthetic Dorian, Almost Human co-star Michael Ealy did an eleven-episode stint as a CIA agent on this unstuck-in-time drama. His wasn’t the biggest part, but his latest role won’t be his first faux-law enforcement rodeo. In Flash Forward, the world has a collective 137-second blackout where much of the population sees a vision of their lives six-months in the future. Is this fate, are these hallucinations? The show deals with the aftermath of a world where some people know, or at least think they know, their future. David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, Godzilla) wrote the pilot, and though the show started off strong out of the gate, critically as well as ratings wise, that support quickly dwindled, leaving the show to die on the vine.

Max Headroom
Though it technically spanned two seasons, only 14 episodes of Max Headroom exist. The character is more well known as a spokesman for New Coke—what better shill to have for a short-lived soda than the protagonist of a brief television series? The show is set in a dystopian future, where omnipresent TV networks rule a puppet government, and pass laws to suit their whims, like forbidding turning off your TV set—partially for ratings, partially so they can observe the private lives of everyday citizens. When crusading journalist Edison Carter (Matt Frewer) is injured after one of his reports causes waves, his mind is downloaded and his consciousness is reborn as the sassy, sunglasses-wearing artificial intelligence known as Max Headroom. Fun fact, Game of Thrones’ George R. R. Martin wrote a script that was in the preproduction process when the series was cancelled.

J.J. Abrams had already carved out a nice career for himself as a Hollywood producer, writer, and director, but it was Lost in 2004 that really made a lot of people stand up and take notice. And of course now he’s a huge figure in the entertainment landscape. Sure, the series finale may have left fans wanting, but few other places in his career balance his popcorn crowd sensibility with his inherent strangeness like this series. Sometimes a little too obtuse, few shows in recent memory have sparked as much debate among fans, or spawned as many divergent theories about what the hell is really going on. So much more than just a story about a group of plane crash survivors on a deserted island where everything is a wee bit crazy, or another supernatural mystery, Lost will forever be remembered for making fans ask the question, why the fuck is there a polar bear?

Before he signed on as hard-nosed cop John Kennex, Almost Human star Karl Urban played and even harder-nosed cop, a little guy named Judge Dredd. Pete Travis’ adaptation of 2000 AD’s ultra-violent comic book absolutely tanked at the box office, but the overlooked action gem found a vibrant new life on home video. There’s even a grassroots movement pushing for a sequel. The film is everything fans of the source wanted it to be: bloody, brutal, and Dredd never even thinks about taking off his iconic helmet. By turns hypnotic and beautiful, and stunning in its brutality—think intense slow-motion bullets ripping through human flesh—the titular judge, jury, and executioner takes on all comers in a city under siege by crime. Whatever Urban does in his latest role, will surely pale in comparison to the violent mayhem of Dredd.

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