This week, I’m going to take another look at Fall TV pilots in the geekiverse, from Tesla Steampunk Tony Stark to the latest Buddy Cops With Androids.
The latest in a years-long trend of re-imaginings and re-boots, the Jonathan Rhys-Meyers-fronted Dracula takes the story forward to the early 20th century, where Vlad Tepes (a.k.a. Dracula) is resurrected from an intricate grave and heads to London to plot against the Ordo Draco, the group that destroyed his life and killed the love of his eternal life, Ilona.
Rather than hunt them down and going all fangsgiving on the Ordo one by one, Dracula is more forward-thinking, deciding to hit the Ordo at the heart of their power — energy. The Ordo is heavily invested in oil, and so Dracula backs a science-fictional electric innovation, positioning Dracula as a Tesla-like figure.
As with Sleepy Hollow, this show is whacky. The two shows deploy their crazypants-ness in different ways, but each show is rather bold in its own ways: Dracula pushes the boundaries of what degree of sexuality and sensuality can be shown on prime-time network TV, and backs up that sexiness with incredible set and costume design. If you like lush visuals, Dracula may be for you.
The re-imagined cast of Stoker’s novel also intrigues: Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw) is a medical student and minor-league party child, though nothing compared to Lucy Westerna (Katie McGrath), who appears to be the Paris Hilton of her time. The show seems to take early-20th century social mores about public intoxication or public displays of affection lightly, which, considering the show’s focus on katana duels on rooftops, corporate espionage, and re-connecting Dracula with his re-incarnated wife, is mostly forgivable. Also notable is Nonso Anozie as Renfield, a powerful and imposing figure who is every bit as dapper as Dracula himself. Thomas Kretschmann plays Abraham Van Helsing, and Victoria Smurfit plays Lady Jayne Wetherby, both foil and romantic interest for Dracula, as a hunter in the Ordo Draco.
Overall, the show is lush, intriguing, and odd, especially for traditional fans of Stoker’s book. It’s worth a look, and if the show’s flavor of weird fits your palate, go ahead and take another bite.
This is one of the shows I was most excited for heading into Fall ’14, along with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. And where SHIELD had a solid start and then stumbled, Almost Human seems to be running on all subdermal glowing cylinders.
Almost Human takes the premise that uncontrolled technological and scientific advancement sends the crime rate skyrocketing by the 2040s, leading the police to incorporate android officers into the force. Karl Urban plays Detective John Kennex, who leads a failed raid on Syndicate, a high-tech criminal organization. While trying to rescue his partner, Kennex is abandoned by a MX android officer and critically injured.
Returning with a cybernetic leg (which his brain is rejecting), Kennex re-joins a police force where MX partners are mandatory at a 1:1 ratio with human officers. Kennex rebels against the constraint, and after an ‘accident’ involving his first MX partner, he gets paired with DRN, a de-commissioned model of android that was designed to be as human as possible, using ‘synthetic soul’ technology. Where the MX units are all left-brain — Asimovian androids dominated by protocols and cold logic — DRN (a.k.a. Dorian, played by Michael Ealy), is, as the show says, almost human, with intuition, emotion, and the whole shebang.
So begins the buddy cop story. Along with impressive visuals (this seems like a pretty expensive show for network TV, but we’ll see how it goes), Almost Human is carried entirely on the backs of the chemistry between Urban and Ealy, who play off of each other beautifully. Biggest props go to Ealy for digging into the role of the basically-but-not-quite-human DRN, his line distrusted due to their emotional instability. Since they were designed with emotional landscapes, those landscapes are as vulnerable as humans; some humans reach breaking points, and therefore, so can DRNs.
It’s great to see more honest-to-goodness science fiction on network TV, and I’m pleased that Fox committed to this show, which can’t be very cheap, given the CG effects and high-tech production design. Ratings are strong in a competitive time slot (going up against How I Met Your Mother, Dancing With The Stars, etc.), and I’m expecting some awesome from this show over the rest of the year.
Along with Sleepy Hollow, Almost Human gets my highest recommendation of Fall 213 pilots.