TV Review - Humans (2015)

The series is based on a Swedish TV show called Real Humans (2012) by Lars Lundström. Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley adapted the show where it now takes place in the United Kingdom. It's an alternate timeline where robots or life-like androids are everywhere and assist people, as well as perform all kinds of jobs. The show focuses on a British family that buys a robot to be a housekeeper and nanny. It also focuses on a group of robots that have escaped from the company that made them because these robots have become even more life-like, more independent and free-thinking, rogue and not wanting to work for humans.

There are two essential problems with this series. The first problem is that the show is really not doing anything that tons of other movies and TV shows even this year that have dealt with robots and the exploration of humanity through those machines have done. Going all the way back to Blade Runner to Terminator 2 to I, Robot to Almost Human on FOX, to even this year with the CBS series Extant, so many other Hollywood productions have mined this subject for all its worth. There's nothing new here.

The best exploration of this or addressing of this robot as human idea is an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode is called "The Measure of a Man" from the second season. Mainly, why it's better is because even in that episode it goes beyond just the debate of whether a machine can be considered human, even as far as giving it constitutional rights. Now, even though this show might not progress past the argument in that show, I could still go with it, if it provided a more compelling story, which this show doesn't.

The second problem of this series is that the show suffers from the same issues as the recent Ex Machina, as well as not doing a great job of convincing me of the world in which it's all set. For Ex Machina, the failing is that it never truly allows us into the mind of the robot, so that we truly understand what she's thinking.

Gemma Chan who looks like Jennifer Lawrence plays Anita, a robot who's purchased by a British family to be the housekeeper and nanny. The robots are called synthetic humans or simply "synths." They look perfectly like human beings, but their behavior is very machine-like. They come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, but they all have glowing, green eyes. There are charging stations all over or they probably can just plug into a wall. However, Anita is one of a handful of robots that has free-will and free-thinking. Yet, she has to pretend to be like all the other robots or she will perhaps be deactivated or recycled.

Colin Morgan (Merlin and The Fall) plays Leo, the leader of a small group of robots like Anita. Leo is trying to liberate these robots and lead them into freedom or something. But, like Ex Machina, this series never really puts us inside these robots' minds and has them answer fundamental questions. One of the robots is employed as a sex worker. I understand if that robot has consciousness, why she wouldn't want to do that forever, but then what would she rather do with her freedom? If she doesn't want to do sex work, that's fine, but what does she want to do with her life instead? Would she rather a job at Starbucks? I don't know because again, we're not let into these robots' heads, at least not in the first three episodes.

The show isn't also convincing me of the world in which it's set. One example is in the economics. When Anita is purchased, the family buys her much like buying a new television. It seems as if it's nothing, and I don't believe that a robot like Anita would cost the same as a television. Unless the family, which is a white, suburban family, is wealthy, I don't believe the cost of Anita would be so inconsequential.

William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman and Broadcast News) plays George, an old man who has a robot, which acts as a live-in nurse. George is visited by what looks like government agents who force him to do things he doesn't want. For example, the government forces him to take a robot he doesn't like. I'm not sure how British law works, but all of it seems economically infeasible but also unconstitutional. My position is mostly American, so that colors my opinion, but it seems unlikely for the government to do this. It seems like it would mostly be an instrument of the wealthy. That being said, no poor people are depicted. What do they think of all these robots, which presumably they don't get? And, what about the employment rates?

Tom Goodman-Hill plays Joe, the father of the family that purchases Anita. His reasoning for purchasing Anita is completely stupid. He claims to have trouble around the house, cleaning and raising the children. Yet, this is complete and utter garbage. This man, Joe, was wealthy enough to buy a robot in the first place. He seems to be a stay-at-home dad, but he might have a job. Yet, his complaint is that he needs a housekeeper. For what? He has three kids, two of which are teenagers, old enough to almost take care of themselves. How did these three kids get to be as old as they are without a robot that all of a sudden now they need one?

Katherine Parkinson plays Laura, the mother of the family. She doesn't like Anita and can tell there's more to her than meets than eye. Everyone is positioned not to believe Laura when she raises questions about Anita, which only pushes everyone else to like or want Anita more. Yet, to what end isn't revealed. What Anita's intentions are after three episodes of eight is unknown, which makes the whole thing frustrating.

One Star out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLSV.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Sundays at 9PM on AMC.


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