THE SERIES "Humans"
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC
WHAT IT'S ABOUT The Hawkinses -- a solid, middle-class English family -- need some help at home, and so they do what millions of others have: They buy a "synth," an artificial human they name Anita (Gemma Chan). Laura Hawkins (Katherine Parkinson) is instantly wary of this too-perfect 'droid. For good reason -- she was formerly allied with a group of breakaway synths who want their freedom. Meanwhile, the great mind who helped invent the miraculous synth, George Millican (William Hurt) -- now elderly and infirm -- can't bear to part with his early model. It has precious memories.
MY SAY Philip K. Dick published "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" in 1968 and science fiction hasn't been the same ever since. Nor have Androids, by the way. They have proliferated across the screen (and page) -- hundreds of these human lookalikes-and-wannabes, with perfect skin and teeth and bedside manners (or famously not -- like Cylons, of "Battlestar Galactica.") The great "Electric Sheep" adaptation, "Blade Runner," really blasted "replicants" into popular culture.
"Humans" in fact opens with a tight shot of an eye -- an homage to the opening seconds of "Blade Runner" -- and the homage (or inspiration) doesn't end there. But it's also clear "Humans" wants to eschew the hard-core sci-fi antecedents for something a little softer or at least relatable (the series is called "Humans" after all). There's that central family drama, for example, along with a quick orientation to one of our current obsessions: How technology rules our lives.
But a trope's a trope and -- based on the first couple of episodes -- it's unclear what, if anything new, "Humans" will be bringing to this particularly well-rubbed one. The two key story lines -- the family and runaway "synths" -- will likely converge at some point during the eight-episode run. The ethics of artificial intelligence will be thoroughly examined. Lessons will be learned and applied. (Unless this turns into "The Matrix," heaven forbid.)
At least "Humans" -- a stylish, intelligent production -- will make that medicine go down easier.