'Almost Human' review: Lively, but you've seen it

Karl Urban plays a part-human, part-machine cop in Karl Urban plays a part-human, part-machine cop in "Almost Human." Photo Credit: MCT

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "Almost Human"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox/5 (regular time slot is Monday at 8 p.m.)

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Thirty years from now, outgunned cops are paired with cyborg partners. But when John Kennex (Karl Urban) asks one of the 'bots to help carry a wounded human comrade to safety during a firefight, he/it declines and an anti-cyborg grudge is born. Kennex is also badly injured, but when he returns to work after a two-year absence, some of his colleagues are wary. Others -- like Valerie Stahl (Minka Kelly) -- are intrigued.

Meanwhile, he must select a new cyborg partner, an outdated model, Dorian (Michael Ealy), who seems more human than human. "I express most data colloquially, man," Dorian explains.

MY SAY With its dystopic stew of cyborgs, psychically scarred cops and a city (apparently Los Angeles; where else?) teeming with bad guys who have all the latest and most lethal toys, "Almost Human" evokes just about every post-apocalyptic milestone from here to "Logan's Run." "Blade Runner" will come immediately to mind, and because another remake of "RoboCop" is just around the corner, that, too.

The people behind the camera -- Brad Anderson ("The Machinist"), who directs Sunday's pilot and creator J.H. Wyman ("Fringe") -- are too talented to think they can get away with larceny here. So these many touchstones, or more generously, grace notes, should probably be interpreted as homage.

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But you may also start to wonder when the homage ends, and the original vision kicks in. That's not exactly clear Sunday night. Instead, "Human" relies on the usual tricks to get the hook in: Some nice special effects, cartoon violence and Minka Kelly. Urban, at his tight-jawed best, arrives with a big fan base from "Star Trek" and especially "Lord of the Rings." But Ealy ("Sleeper Cell") is the more pleasant surprise: Wryly amusing, he brings a swagger, sense of humor and ironic self-awareness -- one irony certainly being that he's supposed to be the one made of glue and silica.

Despite the so-so pilot, should "Almost Human" get a pass, at least in the early going? Wyman ran one of the most provocative TV series of the last 10 years, and knows that loyal fan bases are built on original ideas, not warmed-over ones. So yes, "Human" does.

BOTTOM LINE Lively pilot, with plenty of pop -- but you've seen it all before.

@Newsday

GRADE B

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