Real Hu­mans

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Satur­day, 9.30pm, SBS One It’s not ev­ery day we see a new 10-part sci­ence-fic­tion se­ries, far less one made in Swe­den. Though it first aired in that coun­try in Jan­uary, there is al­ready talk of an English­language ver­sion of Real Hu­mans, mir­ror­ing the fate of Wal­lan­der and of course The Girl with the Dragon Tat­too film se­ries. The premise is not the most orig­i­nal idea in the sci­ence-fic­tion pan­theon. In an al­ter­nate re­al­ity some­where in present-day Swe­den, peo­ple have been liv­ing with domestic ro­bots for more than 10 years. Hubots, as they are called, have be­come so so­phis­ti­cated that they live with peo­ple as full part­ners, re­place lost sons, func­tion as nan­nies, sex work­ers and, in one of many nods to Blade Run­ner, rebel against their mak­ers. (In the robot sex bar we vis­ited in last week’s de­but, one of the bots for hire was made up al­most ex­actly like Daryl Han­nah’s Blade Run­ner char­ac­ter, Pris). There is a trou­bling ab­sence of Asimov’s laws of ro­bot­ics hard­wired into the brains of th­ese an­droids, and the show’s eth­i­cal dilem­mas of deal­ing with ar­ti­fi­cial peo­ple have been thor­oughly ex­plored in ev­ery­thing from Star Trek to The Ter­mi­na­tor. But what Real Hu­mans lacks in orig­i­nal­ity it makes up for with a beau­ti­ful re­al­i­sa­tion of ar­ti­fi­cial look­ing peo­ple in var­i­ous stages of devel­op­ment and de­cay . Though the se­ries never re­sorts to camp, I do find it amus­ing that hubots have a stan­dard house­hold elec­tri­cal plug be­hind their left shoul­der and an off but­ton un­der their left arm — shades of ev­ery­one from Rhoda the robot ( My Liv­ing Doll) to Star Trek ’s Data. There’s a bloke in the ti­tle se­quence who has a USB port be­tween his shoul­der blades. I sup­pose you could take him to work if you lost your thumb drive. Though far from per­fect, Real Hu­mans is the best sci­ence-fic­tion se­ries to hit the small screen in a long time. The real ace in the hole is that the pro­gram is down­right creepy. The Swedes are get­ting very good at this. it is, but it stars Pene­lope Keith, the orig­i­nal star of the won­der­ful To the Manor Born, which ran from 1979 to 1981. Now 72, Keith is still en­er­getic and rather lovely, and though age has dimmed the beauty of her face, those up­per-class vow­els re­main un­tar­nished. She still talks of go­ing down to see ‘‘ the hice’’. In this pro­gram Keith tells us she is on a mis­sion to over­turn the rules of vis­it­ing stately homes. You know the kind — don’t touch this, don’t sit on that, don’t go be­yond this or that bar­rier. Of course she is joined by a won­der­ful team of the best Bri­tish tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties who spe­cialise in up­dat­ing old hices, er, houses. Keith does fret ter­ri­bly that there may not be enough time to get won­der­ful old Ave­bury Manor in Wilt­shire into shape. But over four episodes I’m sure she’ll try to make sure the hice is in or­der, and that the great un­washed get to jump on the beds, pic­nic in the kitchens and touch al­most ev­ery­thing. be­cause we are wit­ness­ing first-hand the event that causes a long war of suc­ces­sion known as the Anar­chy. It is the death of Wil­liam Adelin, the only le­git­i­mate heir of Henry I aboard a ves­sel known as the White Ship. We see it all from a sort of Ti­tan­ic­sur­vivor po­si­tion un­der and in the water as the ship goes down in flames. Then we are off to the king’s court to wit­ness the be­gin­nings of chaos. There’s loads of sex, in­trigue, schem­ing and strug­gle, and, nat­u­rally, gore by the buck­et­load.

Mike & Molly

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