3 Reasons Fox’s ‘Almost Human’ Is Almost Canceled

Is Fox’s Almost Human on the verge of being canceled? Let’s take a look at 3 big problems that could doom the show.

Feb 21, 2014 at 1:27PM

Sci-fans had high hopes for Fox's (NASDAQ:FOX) Almost Human when it premiered last November.

The show was created by J.H. Wyman, the co-producer of Fringe, and produced by Wyman, acclaimed director J.J. Abrams, and frequent Abrams collaborator Bryan Burk. The show's main protagonist, Detective John Kennex, is played by Karl Urban, best known as the new Dr. McCoy in Abrams' new Star Trek films.

The premise of the show -- a world where real cops are partnered with androids -- also seemed like a fresh new take on the well-worn genre of cop dramas.

Unfortunately, the show hit a series low with its tenth episode, "Perception", which fell to 5.37 million viewers with a rating of 1.5 among 18 to 49 year olds. Total viewers continued declining with the following episode, "Disrupt," which drew in 5.35 million viewers, although its rating among 18 to 49 year olds inched up to 1.7.

While some of that decline can be attributed to the ongoing Winter Olympics, which airs in the same Monday night slot as Almost Human, the show is also failing to gain traction among sci-fi fans. Fox still hasn't ordered new episodes for the show, which has led to rumors that it could soon be canceled. Personally, I think if Almost Human gets renewed, it will still have plenty of trouble making it past the second season.

Let's take a look at the three main reasons that Almost Human is almost canceled.

1. Airing the episodes out of order
Fox has an odd habit of intentionally rearranging episodes of sci-fi shows, presumably so they flow more smoothly on a week-to-week basis. It did this with the cult hit Firefly as well as Fringe.

Fox's logic, apparently, was to spread out the procedural "monster of the week" shows so that the main storyline was revealed at a slower pace.

Almost Human Tv Preview

Dorian the Android, who has a "synthetic soul." (Source: Fox)

The second to eighth episodes are all completely out of order, as is the tenth episode. The changes are all over the place -- the second aired episode was originally intended to be the fifth one, while the original second episode aired as the eighth.

Unfortunately, this crazy shuffling of the deck undermines the showrunners' original intentions. In Almost Human, it causes the main story arcs of Kennex's traitorous ex-girlfriend and Dorian's memories to seem painfully inconsistent.

2. Almost ambitious...
Another area where Almost Human falls short is its lack of ambition. When we look back at the greatest sci-fi shows -- The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, The X-Files, and even Fringe -- they offer audiences ambitious storylines that are packed with scientific and philosophical ideas.

Most episodes of Almost Human, on the other hand, are assembled in a simple, formulaic manner -- evolve a few of the latest headline-making technologies from our time (3D printers, cloud computing, genetic engineering, smart homes), use them to commit a crime, and play the rest of the episode out like a standard CSI/NCIS procedural with the sci-fi world serving as a backdrop.


Future cop dramas are every bit as procedural as present-day cop dramas. (Source: Fox)

This simply isn't how great sci-fi is done. Great sci-fi shows start with an intriguing idea and challenges the viewer to think about broader philosophical and ethical issues that are applicable to our present-day world. For example, the parallel worlds in Fringe caused viewers to ponder if different versions of themselves would have lived out their lives in a similar manner.

Almost Human lacks any of those deep questions -- sci-fi is simply employed to kill people and solve their murders. It's bland and fails to scratch the surface of the more intriguing questions of the evolution of AI technology that should have been the centerpiece of the show.

3. Resistance against reality shows and aging comedies is futile...
Besides shuffled episodes and a flat procedural format, the show's biggest problem is that it regular goes head-to-head against two popular shows in the 8 p.m. timeslot on Mondays -- Disney (NYSE:DIS)/ABC's The Bachelor and CBS' (NYSE:CBS) How I Met Your Mother.

On Feb. 17, 7.7 million viewers watched The Bachelor, which had a 2.2 rating among 18-49 year olds, and 5.04 million viewers watched How I Met Your Mother, which scored a 1.4. The Winter Olympics on Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC easily topped all three with 23.6 million viewers and a whopping rating of 5.6.

How I Met Your Mother has been slipping lately, but its ratings will likely pick up after the Winter Olympics and as it approaches its series finale on March 31. Almost Human's last episode of the season airs on March 3.

All of these prime time shows will gain ground after the Winter Olympics conclude this weekend, but whether or not Almost Human can finish the season on a high note remains to be seen.

What does Almost Human mean for Fox?
Ever since the final season of The X-Files concluded in 2002, Fox has been searching for a new flagship sci-fi franchise to carry the torch. Unfortunately, none of its subsequent shows stayed on the air for as long as The X-Files, which ran for nine seasons and into two feature films.

Here are some of the more prominent sci-fi shows that aired on Fox after 2000, three of which were created by prominent directors James Cameron and Joss Whedon.




Viewers in final season

Dark Angel (2000)

James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee


6.00 million

Firefly (2002)

Joss Whedon


4.48 million

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)

Josh Friedman, based on characters created by James Cameron


5.37 million

Fringe (2008)

J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci


4.27 million

Dollhouse (2009)

Joss Whedon


2.17 million

Terra Nova (2011)

Kelly Marcel, Craig Silverstein


10.08 million

Alcatraz (2012)

Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt


9.56 million

Source: Wikipedia.

With the exception of Fringe, none of Fox's new sci-fi shows lasted very long. It's as if Fox quickly grew impatient with its inability to match the first season of The X-Files, which regularly drew in 12 million to 14 million viewers. If that's the case, then Almost Human might not have much hope of reaching a second season.

Almost Human also won't help boost Fox's broadcast television segment very much, which mainly attributed its 5% rise in revenue last quarter to robust viewership of its NFL and MLB games.

My final take
In conclusion, Almost Human was almost worth watching.

Unfortunately, it was wrecked by pointless episode shuffling, by-the-numbers procedural writing, and strong competing programs on rival networks. Combine those three problems with Fox's impatience with the sci-fi shows that it greenlights, and I think we can safely say that Dorian might be decommissioned again very soon.

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