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TV Series Review

Humans—real humans—are pretty messy. We won't rinse our dishes no matter how many times we're told. We're prone to let our attention wander at inopportune times. We cry over spilled milk and laugh at inappropriate jokes. We're frustrating, unpredictable and just barely domesticated.

And there are times when we look at the people in our lives—those whom we would say we love more than anything—and secretly think to ourselves, Wouldn't it be great if I could just make them do what I want them to do?

Well, humanity is no more malleable in the sci-fi show Humans that it is in the real world. On the other hand, there are some disturbingly human facsimiles that might deliver on that fantasy of "people" just doing what we want them to do.

Therein lies the problem.

Perfect Robots, Imperfect People?

Humans, produced jointly by AMC, Britain's Channel 4 and a company called Kudos, unveils a world in which lifelike robots, called Synths, are all the rage. They serve as caregivers and janitors, golf caddies and sex toys. Every harried, well-to-do family seems to have one to help around the house; and the British government prescribes them to the sickly like antibiotics.

For loads of people, that's just great. Who couldn't use a hand folding the laundry? Why, in many ways, they're way better than real people! No problem with that, right?


"Why would I have a problem with something that makes my existence pointless?" opines Mattie Hawkins, a teen who used to be pretty hostile to her family's pre-owned Synth, but who is now helping the robots in the human-versus-Synth revolt.

These days, though, lots of folks are less than thrilled with the ubiquity of Synths. In fact, humans are now being taught that Synths with green eyes are rebellious and dangerous, while those with orange eyes are perfectly programmed machines.

But Mattie's mother, Laura, is dedicated to showing the humans that Synths are their equals. Not all humans are convinced. Neither are Synths. In fact, in Season 3, a coming clash continues to brew as humans and robots vie against one another for their place in the world.

Another Take on A.I.

Ever since God created us, it seems, we've wondered whether it might one day be possible for us to manufacture life, too—or at least, reasonable facsimiles of human life—through witchcraft or science or both.

And never has the possibility of such a creation felt so close. Scientists are creating more skilled, more lifelike robots all the time. Some technological theorists believe it's just a matter of a time before our computers become self-aware.

Those elements come together in Humans, a disturbingly thorough and surprisingly thoughtful exploration of future human-robot relations. While there may not be a lot of original ideas here that weren't brought up in, say, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence or Blade Runner or even Frankenstein, Humans digs into them in interesting, compelling ways.

Only Human After All

But, alas, compelling television often goes hand-in-hand with problematic content these days. And Humans is no outlier.

While the show sports a TV-14 rating on AMC, its content feels more mature than that. Human-robot sex (in myriad variations) is a frequent conversation topic, with human (or human-looking) forms on nearly full display in provocative, titillating encounters. Violence can be bloody and wince-inducing, too, with people and Synths alike suffering seriously painful-looking wounds. The s-word and other profanities are commonly uttered unbleeped, at least on my iTunes version of the show.

We don't need to say that most of this content is completely gratuitous and unnecessary, of course. No one needs to hear a bevy of s-words to contemplate AMC's provocative brave, new world. But it shouldn't surprise us that the show's creators included all that material anyway. In some ways, we humans—at least the humans that create our television shows—are surprisingly predictable.

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Episode Reviews

June 12, 2018: "Episode 2"
Humans: July 5, 2015 - "Episode 2"



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Gemma Chan as Anita; Tom Goodman-Hill as Joe Hawkins; Katherine Parkinson as Laura Hawkins; Sope Dirisu as Fred; Lucy Carless as Mattie Hawkins; Ivanno Jeremiah as Synth Max; Colin Morgan as Leo; William Hurt as George Millican; Pixie Davies as Sophie Hawkins; Emily Berrington as Niska; Rebecca Front as Vera; Theo Stevenson as Toby Hawkins; Carrie-Anne Moss as Dr. Athena Morrow; Bella Dayne as Astrid; Dino Fetcher as Stanley; Billy Jenkins as Seraph Sam; Mark Bonnar as Neil; Ruth Bradley as DI Karen Voss






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