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Bad robot

6/24/2015

“Humans”
Sunday, June 28 (AMC)

Gemma Chan as Anita - Humans Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Des Willie

Gemma Chan as Anita – Humans
Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Des Willie

Series Debut: It’s not the future; it’s a “parallel present”(?). Whenever it is, “Humans” is a British production, which means a more subtle take on sci-fi than ‘Merican fare: A busy suburban London couple (Tom Goodman-Hill and Katherine Parkinson) buy a refurbished “Synth” (a human-like robot servant, Anita, played by Gemma Chan) who displays flashes of organic emotion and passive-aggressive tendencies (never, ever buy “refurbished” — that’s eBay 101). Anita’s not the only Synth developing feelings, and — shades of another Brit series, “Black Mirror” — the eight-episode “Humans” is chillingly effective at both pointing out the possibilities of technology and questioning our over-reliance on it. It’s also creepy enough to hold you over until the premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead.”

 

“Zoo”
Tuesday, June 30 (CBS)

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Series Debut: Meanwhile, back in the US of A, the best we can come up with is an “animal uprising” — based on a James Patterson book, no less. In “Zoo,” James Wolk plays … I can’t believe I’m about to type this … “renegade zoologist” Jackson Oz … the first to make the connection between an uptick in critter-on-people violence and his father’s “crazy” theories about human extinction at the paws of fed-up animals. What follows is more dumb, expensive-looking proof that CBS should stay well away from sci-fi (see also: “Under the Dome,” “Extant”), but you likely already made up your mind, one way or the other, back at the first mention of “James Patterson.”

 

“Scream”
Tuesday, June 30 (MTV)

Series Debut: As a movie franchise, “Scream” slid hard from great idea (the 1996 original) to tired asterisk (2011’s “Scream 4”), so how’s MTV going to rehab it as a series? By adding a social-media angle and aiming it at the “Teen Wolf” crowd. Now, stoopid programming for tweens can still be entertaining (for example: I’m currently hooked on ABC Family’s new “Stitchers,” which could be the most ridiculous show the network has ever produced — and that’s saying something). But this “Scream” is more straight-up slasher-flick drama with, admittedly, genuine scares, but little of the humor and of the self-aware winks that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson introduced in ’96. Then again, the intended audience wasn’t even born yet, so…

 

“Extant”
Wednesday, July 1 (CBS)

Season Premiere: Yes, really. Last summer’s debut season of “Extant” was technically a hit, even if everyone was just tuning in to watch incredulously as Halle Berry slogged through her most WTF? role since “Catwoman.” Season 2 picks up six months after “Not Without My Space Baby,” with ex-astronaut Molly Woods (Berry) escaping a psychiatric hospital to investigate a series of murders seemingly carried out by the aliens she thought she’d stopped from invading Earth. In keeping with “Extant”’s promise of a “sexier, edgier” season, Molly’s boring husband (Goran Visnjic) has been sidelined in favor of a roguish bounty hunter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) with a Fox Mulder-like taste for weird cases, and the new partnership actually produces some sparks. Ignoring remnants like Molly’s annoying robo-kid (seriously, just return him to SkyMall), “Extant” might just redeem itself this season. I can’t believe I just typed that, either. CV

 

Bill Frost writes about television for Salt Lake City Weekly, talks about it on the TV Tan Podcast (Tuesdays on iTunes and Stitcher), and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.

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