Idiot Box: “Humans” On Amc

“Humans” On Amc

Devin D. O'Leary
3 min read
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Having conquered drug-dealing (“Breaking Bad”), advertising (“Mad Men”) and the railroad industry in the Old West (“Hell on Wheels”), AMC is moving into the field of robotics. “Humans” marks the cable network’s first venture into the genre of science fiction. Given AMC’s past success with hour-long dramas, it’s no surprise that “Humans” is slick, mature and filled with tense drama.

The show (a co-production with Britain’s Channel 4) is based on a Swedish series called “Real Humans.” Set in a near-future virtually identical to our current time period, the main sci-fi twist is that science has found a cheap and easy way to produce strikingly lifelike androids. Known as “Synthetics,” these trendy robotic servants are sold to families for “less than the price of a car.” The show speculates on what effect such a technological advance would have on people.

Our main story revolves around Joe Hawkins (Tom Goodman-Hill), a husband and father of three in London. With his wife working overtime, Joe makes the executive decision to purchase a Synth (Gemma Chan), eventually dubbed Anita. Each member of Joe’s family reacts in a different way to the quietly servile machine. Little Sophie (Pixie Davies) views her as a new playmate. Teenage Toby (Theo Stevenson) sees the anatomically correct android through the eyes of a horny teenager. Oldest, computer-oriented daughter Mattie (Lucy Carless) views the new addition with suspicion. To wife/mother Laura (Katherine Parkinson), Anita is nothing but a highly efficient, high-tech replacement. Joe, meanwhile, lingers over the instruction manual on “Adult Options, 18+.” Thanks to Anita’s eerie blank stare and the show’s menacing soundtrack, we’re led to believe this domestic experiment might not end so well.

Beyond the world of the Hawkins family, there’s a subplot involving a lonely widower (William Hurt) trying to keep his outdated, broken-down Synth (Will Tudor) in the face of a fancy new replacement (Rebecca Front). Occasionally, we check in with a detective (Neil Maskell) investigating Synth-related crimes. There’s also a flashback story involving Anita before she came to work at the Hawkins house. Apparently. she was a member of a runaway group of androids who escaped from the factory after developing their own thoughts and emotions. With just the pilot out of the way, it’s hard to tell how these story lines will intersect. Hurt is about the only name actor in the cast. His story is the most emotional and probably deserves more screen time. Even though we can’t say where it’s leading, the backstory about the Synths is somewhat predictable. Stories about machines achieving sentience are well-explored in the realm of science fiction. (This summer in the movie theaters, we’ve already seen
Ex Machina and Avengers: Age of Ultron.) More interesting are the sociological explorations of how we humans react to a brand-new, life-changing technology. Will it improve our lives? Will it make us fat and lazy? Will it rise up and overthrow us, Terminator-style? As a speculative glimpse at our possible future. “Humans” has potential. All it’s got to do is avoid the clichés of every other robot-based movie/TV show ever made.

“Humans” airs Sundays at 7pm on AMC.

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