It’s the middle of 2015, and if any science fiction written over the past century is to be trusted, the world should be crawling with robots by now. By the looks of it, however, machines haven’t yet taken over – except when it comes to entertainment. Our fascination with all things futuristic hasn’t waned, and if the recent surge of robotic protagonists in film and television is any indication, the theme of human interaction with artificial intelligence is only picking up speed. Channel 4 and AMC’s latest sci-fi drama, “Humans,” is a classic portrayal of the ethical dilemma of keeping nearly-human robot servants, and its chilling depiction of a world which can barely distinguish between flesh-and-blood people and robo-people truly makes it a show for the 21st century.
Based off of 2012 Swedish drama, “Real Humans,” AMC’s remake starring Colin Morgan, William Hurt, and Katherine Parkinson, is set in modern-day England, in a sort of parallel universe where live-in robot servants in the shape of attractive women, namely, “synths,” are the type of everyday commodity one can buy at the store. “Humans” follows the stories of several families and individuals who interact with these “synths,” primarily one family headed by Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) and his wife, Laura (Parkinson), who decide to purchase a synth (portrayed robotically by Gemma Chan) for extra help around the house. In true science fiction, robot-servant-gone-rogue fashion, the synth ends up wreaking havoc on family dynamics, and calling into question the morality and usefulness behind exploiting such nearly-human machines for glorified serfdom.
“Humans,” while sharp and well-executed, borders on cliche, especially in light of other recent robot-centric projects in film and television. The robot servant plot has been done so many times, it necessarily comes with the risk of seeming stale if nothing mind-blowingly new is thrown into the mix. “Humans” lacks the sheer shock value of some of its contemporaries – namely, recent thriller film “Ex Machina,” which explores the idea of the blurred line between humans and ultra-human machines much better than “Humans” seems to, at least as far as its premiere episode goes. In comparison, “Humans” seems slightly watered down and formulaic – however, with seven episodes left of the series, there is definite room for improvement…or perhaps that’s just my human optimism talking.
“Humans” debuts on AMC and Channel 4 in the UK on June 14, 2015 at 9 p.m. The series will consist of seven more episodes, airing every Sunday at 9 p.m.