Mid-season Science Fiction on TV

Okay, I’m going to write about something a little bit lighter than holidays and values. Today’s subject is Television. There are several shows I’m watching this season: Castle (of which I wrote earlier), NCIS (of course), Elementary (and Sherlock, too!), Agents of SHIELD, and a few others…But tonight I want to discuss a great show that grew into itself over the course of the season and another that started off with such high potential and now…uggg! Let me give you some clues and then you can guess….or look it up in IMdB.

Both shows have a lady boss: (Lili Taylor plays Captain Maldonado in one. Marg Helgenberger plays Director Lilian Strand in the other).

     Both shows have an unlikely lead duo consisting of one human and one other.

     Both shows have a Doctor in the primary supporting cast. (One of them is an awkward misfit, the other is laid back, relaxed and knows what time it is.)

     Both shows feature a futuristic premise: One is set about 35 years in the future and handles its futurist ideas in an organic and seamless way that flows naturally out of the story; the other is set in the present, but handles it’s futuristic aspects in an uneven way that is cool, only slightly more often than not.

     Have you figured it out yet?

I’m talking about ‘Almost Human’ from J. H. Wyman and JJ Abrams on Fox and ‘Intelligence’ from Michael Seitzman and Barry Schindle on CBS.

     Both shows come from creators with solid pedigrees: Wyman and Abrams worked together on Fringe, although Abrams is better known for small movies like Super 8 and Cloverfield as well as franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars; Barry Schindle started in TV working under Dick Wolf on ‘Law and Order,’ and had his own very successful show, ‘Numbers’ with the Scott brothers.

     ‘Almost Human’ is nothing but fresh, episode after episode, with ideas bursting out of the background, foreground, and falling out of the sky in every scene. But it never uses in the ideas in gimmicky way. The ideas always service the story first and foremost.   

     In the middle of its first season, ‘Intelligence’ has handled its big ideas with the aplomb of Sid the Sloth (from ‘Ice Age’), that is to say awkwardly and rather forced – no offense to Sid or his movies.

     Both shows have a core of solid, likeable characters in their regular and supporting cast but only one treats its characters well. ‘Almost Human’ manages to produce episodes out of order and still keep the characters’ thru lines on a believable arc, not in a perfect and calculated way, but in a forward and backward way that feels real and human.  And it’s leads, Karl Urban as Detective Kennex and Michael Ealy as Dorian play truly believable characters: well-written and well-acted.

‘Intelligence’ started out with good characters and good storylines. It had a couple of interesting mythology arcs but it resolved the one about a Gabriel’s wife by the third episode and only used the Chinese girl (who reaches out to Gabriel because he’s the only one like her) twice. But the writers seem to have hit desperate rock bottom rather quickly, putting one of the lead characters in a prolonged, awkward nearly dying scene. And their extras casting is the worst: their military teams don’t look or act like credible military.  The talents of Josh Holloway and Meghan Ory are wasted as often as they’re used to full advantage.

‘Intelligence’ has partially redeemed itself over the last couple of episodes, with average plots but some scenes with Marg Helgenberger and the other female lead, as well as Marg and her character’s daughter that really showed the humanity of the characters.

Overall, I truly hope that ‘Almost Human’ gets renewed, because they introduced several characters and storylines that I want to see developed. ‘Intelligence’… I hope they fire half the writing staff and hire the writers from the Sci-Fi Channel remake of Battlestar Galactica; those guys and gals could write a marooned episode and make it intensely intriguing.  Hear that CBS?

 

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