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'Almost Human' review: Rousing robromance

The futuristic new series "Almost Human" (7 p.m. Nov. 17 and 18, Fox; 3.5 stars out of 4) has a future more promising than the one it depicts.

The latest production from the "Fringe" team of creator J.H. Wyman and executive producer J.J. Abrams looks 35 years ahead to 2048, when law enforcement has a major problem: Police departments are losing their battles against increasingly organized and weaponized criminals.

In an L.A. that looks a lot like the urban mess in "Blade Runner," Det. John Kennex (Karl Urban) has come out of a 17-month coma after he lost his leg and his human partner in an ambush. He's suffering from "depression, mental atrophy, trauma onset, OCD, PTSD and psychological rejection of his synthetic body parts." So naturally his boss, Capt. Sandra Maldonado (Chicago area native Lili Taylor), insists he come back to work—because who doesn't want that kind of guy patrolling the mean streets?

Maldonado overlooks his issues because she needs his expertise: Someone is leaking information to The Syndicate, a shady group of terrorists responsible for the attack on Kennex.

Kennex reluctantly returns to the force but doesn't want to follow new protocols that require him to be partnered with an MX-43, the latest "synthetic" officer model that shows no emotion as it spouts facts, figures and everything else that could annoy a cranky detective with a glitchy robotic leg—that synthetic part he's rejecting—who blames a robocop for abandoning him during the ambush.

So Kennex pushes his android partner out of a moving car.

Rules being rules, Maldonado gets creative. She partners Kennex with a discontinued synthetic model, the DRN, or as Kennex calls them, "the crazy ones." Scientists stopped making the DRNs because they showed "unexpected emotional responses" that could become troublesome in battle. (Maybe Maldonado just couldn't resist the irony of pairing a human who is part machine with a robot who is almost human.)

Dorian (Michael Ealy) annoys Kennex at first, but the human slowly warms to his new partner. The "two cops from the scrap heap," as another officer says, fall into quite the robromance.

The actors playing them have equally great chemistry. Urban gives good quip, while Ealy has fun showing Dorian break down his antisocial partner's walls. There's a fun bounce to their verbal back-and-forths.

The premiere establishes a mythology that Wyman has said will play out in tandem with weekly cases. He peppers what really is a police procedural with enough not-so-distant science to make "Almost Human" a sci-fi thriller, and enough humor to make it a buddy cop comedy.

In the one episode shown to critics, these familiar elements work without the show feeling like a retread. I understand Monday's second episode has sexbots, so the future looks even brighter. "Almost Human" has plenty of action, sci-fi and one-liners to keep fans of several genres happy.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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