Two episodes were provided for reviewing purposes prior to broadcast.
Set in an unspecified moment in the future, AMC’s new series Humans (premiering on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom as well) focuses on the somewhat troubled Hawkins family and their hiring — well, purchasing of — new maid Anita (Gemma Chan). Sounds normal enough? Well, Anita is actually a “synth,” a robot built for the entire purpose of servitude under whichever “master” first reads her off a series of obtuse phrases and shakes her hand. The show is bubbling and broiling with successfully uncomfortable slavery metaphors and — entirely unsurprising — the idea of what makes any of us crazy folks “human” in the first place, but unfortunately, Humans is as bland as its title. Full of sad characters doing dull things and evoking worn-out messages, AMC’s new show packs neither the punch of its emotional brethren or any of the jee-wiz wow power of a believable, diverse world.
Set in the suburbs of London, the show’s first few episodes (two provided for critics) hint at troubled waters for its main clan. There’s dad Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill), mom Laura (Katherine Parkinson), two daughters Mattie (Lucy Carless) and Sophie (Pixie Davis), and son Toby (Theo Stevenson). Laura’s surprised when she returns home from a “business trip” to find robotic Anita folding laundry and tucking little Sophie in at night. She distrusts the technology, but Joe argues for Anita’s rightful place in the family, with Laura’s apparent increasing absence from the home.
The show delves into some potentially intriguing ideas, but it’s yet to be seen whether they will come to fruition before the end of its short eight episode first season. One of these ideas is the sexualization of Anita — and the robots in general — with teenage son Toby practically scraping his jaw off the floor once the attractive android waltzes through the door. Joe’s hidden acquisition of what equates to an “adult mode” for the robot later in the pilot is simultaneously hilarious and truthful. Of course, there’s a dingy robot sex den once the show escapes the confines of the Hawkins household, but it’s neither titillating nor repulsive, it’s just kind of there.
And, really, I’d ascribe that statement to the first few hours of Humans as a whole. The show expands slightly in scope when flashing back to Anita’s pre-Hawkins life, but it never thrills. Its story threads work for building a show around, chugging along with character beats and plot twists making natural sense, but there’s no other adjective to use to describe it besides this: functional. It works, it doesn’t fall apart, it isn’t awful. It’s just not all that exciting.