The broadcast networks have almost 30 shows debuting this fall, including new sitcoms from Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes, a new CW showcase for another Amell and Marvel-ous adventures for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.
Next up on our list….
THE SHOW | Fox’s Almost Human (Mondays at 8/7c; premieres Nov. 4)
THE COMPETITION | NBC’s The Voice, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, CBS’ How I Met Your Mother/We Are Men (new), The CW’s Hart of Dixie
THE CAST | Karl Urban (Star Trek), Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell), Lili Taylor (I Shot Andy Warhol), Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights), Michael Irby (The Unit) and Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean)
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THE SET-UP | In the year 2048, technology has run amok and spun crime out of control, leading the police department to partner each human cop with an MX-43 android (or “synthetic”) — but Detective John Kennex (Urban), upon waking from a 17-month coma, is having none of that. Still, rules are rules, so he is paired with a decommissioned, “more human” model, the DRN (Ealy) — but just call him “Dorian.” Taylor plays police captain Sandra, Kelly and Irby fellow officers and Crook is the PD’s tech wonk.
THE FIRST IMPRESSION | This tale of a “good robot” is brought to you by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, so let’s get that joke out of the way. Among the cast, Urban is perfectly gruff as Kennex, who is haunted by a larger mytharc involving a suspicious ambush that cost him a leg and almost his life; Ealy is solid yet saddled with A) bringing something fresh to a role we’ve seen many times before in every medium and B) single-handedly lightening up the bleak mood; and Taylor is far better than she has to be. The look and feel of the pilot is Demolition Man meets Blade Runner, yet it offers no real “gee whiz” flashes of never-seen techno-coolness. There is a TV series here — and former Fringe boss J.H. Wyman is certainly the one to deliver it — but even a Michael Giacchino-style quivering of strings can’t save the pilot-ending twist from being more “What?” than “Whaaaaaat?!?!”
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Fox in recent years has not had an easy time launching sci-fi on Mondays (see Terra Nova, Alcatraz), yet is ambitiously looking to double down come November when Almost Human displaces Bones to tee up the supernatural Sleepy Hollow. Yes, those Dancing stars have lost a step, but The Voice is ever-strong (especially if it can steer away from Nashville Star territory) and How I Met Your Mother’s buzzy farewell tour promises no easy pass for Abrams’ latest TV product — unless it can quickly gain momentum with a compelling mythology.