It feels like we’ve been here before; Fox unleashes a high-concept look into the future or the unknown onto our television sets, only to pull the plug when said show eventually settles into a grey zone where it draws more than enough viewers to rise above the distinction of being labeled a bust, but well under what it would need to be declared a hit.
It happened with Terra Nova, and now it has happened with Almost Human; another show dead and gone because Fox seemingly doesn’t want another Fringe on their hands – i.e., another show that struggles to justify its existence, bleeding money as the network carries it across the syndication threshold, all while being vilified by fans who think the network hates sci-fi.
Producer JH Wyman worked on Fringe for 4 seasons, so he knows a little bit about that show’s constant struggle to stay on the air. One would forgive Wyman if he had hoped for an easier path to glory with Almost Human - a sci-fi procedural with outstanding chemistry between its stars (Karl Urban and Michael Ealy); a more accessible concept (an authority-bucking cop and his robot sidekick tackle crime in the technologically advanced future); and a broader sensibility. But maybe the show was too accessible.
Lets face it, Fringe required discipline and dedication. If you missed an episode or a run of episodes, you had to catch up or you would be forever confused by the show’s deeply woven twists and turns. In many ways, that’s what networks crave – appointment TV, like Lost – but sometimes that feels like an obligation; and from the outside looking in, it can be imposing to think about giving a show like that a chance as a first-time viewer, when it’s already in the middle of its run. Almost Human, on the other hand, seemed like something you could miss for a week without getting lost – but while that can be good for a viewer, it can also be bad for a show: with so many other options, viewers can lose their way back and forget about a show entirely.
This is all anecdotal, but it would seem like viewers did indeed forget about Almost Human as the season went on, with the show finishing up with a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demo after drawing a 3.1 and 2.3 rating on successive nights when it premiered in two parts last November.
It’s worth pointing out that, on average, Almost Human got better ratings than The Following, and Fox stalwarts like Bones and Glee, but it’s vital that we remember that each show lives in its own universe that is formed by its cost, momentum, acclaim, ownership, and nearness to syndication. So while it’s easy to point to Almost Human and think that the show got the short end of the stick by comparison, that determination is often made without examining the full picture.
Yes, The Following‘s ratings have been trending down all season, to the point where they are on par with Almost Human, but The Following still generates a lot of buzz, it’s a season closer to syndication, and it almost certainly has to be cheaper for Fox and Warner Bros. to produce.
Really, despite the complaints that Fox has it out for sci-fi shows (do they, though? As many have pointed out, the network greenlights an awful lot of these shows), this is just business and Fox couldn’t risk pumping more money into Almost Human only to see the show’s ratings drop further, prompting an equally harsh end early next year. Is that kind of risk averse thinking a bit defeatist and do we long for the era when networks would allow shows to grow? A bit and of course, but in this climate, big projects need to get big results and that just didn’t happen with Almost Human.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for all the news you need on this year’s cancellations, pick-ups, and more.