Hu­mans

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUMMER TV PREVIEW -

From Karel Capek’s 1920 play “Ros­sum’s Uni­ver­sal Robots” and on up through a gallery that in­cludes “Me­trop­o­lis,” the work of Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, C-3PO and the shared in­ter­est of Spiel­berg/Kubrick in mak­ing the 2001 movie “A.I. Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence,” there’s very lit­tle left to be said about robots— even as Google’s engi­neers come closer and closer to tak­ing the steer­ing wheel away from hu­man driv­ers.

AMC’s “Hu­mans,” a co-pro­duc­tion with Bri­tish tele­vi­sion’s Chan­nel 4, is quite pos­si­bly the least orig­i­nal drama on TV this sum­mer (it’s even based on an ear­lier Swedish ver­sion of the same show), but it is hand­somely re­al­ized from a pro­duc­tion stand­point. Wil­liam Hurt also has a part in it, as an ail­ing ro­bot in­ven­tor who finds him­self trapped by the utopian ideal of his cre­ation; it’s some­what amaz­ing that Hurt so of­ten man­ages to rise above the ma­te­rial given to him.

“Hu­mans,” set in a par­al­lel present where robots are cooler than Ap­pleWatches, is about a fam­ily that ac­quires a “synth,” which the hus­band (Tom Good­man-Hill) pur­chases as the ob­vi­ous (and most sex­ist) an­swer to his at­tor­ney wife’s long work hours and the fact that he can’t keep up with the rais­ing of their three kids. When the wife (Kather­ine Parkin­son) ex­presses her un­hap­pi­ness at this pur­chase, the hus­band barks: “You don’t get to waltz back in the door and tell me what this fam­ily needs.”

So the at­trac­tive, ice-cool ro­bot named Anita ( Gemma Chan) gets to stay — but it turns out she’s a re­tread who was cap­tured and rewired and put back into ser­vice af­ter she and sev­eral other free-think­ing synths tried to rebel.

The first two episodes are ap­pallingly de­riv­a­tive of other ro­bot-on-the-run sto­ries (es­pe­cially “A.I.”), with no clear in­di­ca­tion that a sur­prise twist awaits down the road in the other six episodes. “Hu­mans” does have that pleas­ingly an­ti­sep­tic feel­ing of euro-cool about it (think of how the Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch “Sher­lock” se­ries looks, or BBC Amer­ica’s “Or­phan Black”), which can some­times lure view­ers into the belief that they’re watch­ing some­thing classy and so­phis­ti­cated, when re­ally they’re just snack­ing on the TV equiv­a­lent of rice cakes. Grade: C

DES WIL­LIE/KU­DOS/AMC/C4

Gemma Chan plays Anita, a ro­bot house ser­vant with more to her than meets the eye.

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