Almost Human

FOX, Nov. 17, 8 p.m. ET/PT |

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As futuristic fantasies go, Almost Human is close to old-fashioned, blending elements of Robocop (1987) and Blade Runner (1982). It's also a bruisingly efficient hour of good entertainment. In 2048 Det. John Kennex (Karl Urban) is teamed with an android named Dorian (Michael Ealy). It's standard procedure in a violent age (the detective was already nearly blown to bits in an ambush). Kennex doesn't like working with robots—they're rather priggish in their nyah-nyah perfection—and he's particularly wary of his new partner: Dorian is an older model that proved, shall we say, temperamental. He's only retrieved from storage because of a shortage. But Dorian is not only more sensitive and alert than the other robots, but seemingly more human than gruff Kennex, who looks something like Brad Pitt, only with Vince Vaughn's grooming. Ealy, with his expressive good looks and air of reticent politeness, is an inspired casting choice. He and Urban get their buddy rapport going right from the start. I've seen the word "robromance" used, and I wouldn't go that far. But this late entry in the fall season is one of the best.

Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy

TLC, Nov. 17, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

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Within eight weeks of JFK's assassination, his widow received more than 800,000 letters. In this moving special, we hear some of these eloquent, thoughtful notes of condolence read by a stellar cast (including Allison Janney and Viola Davis) and illustrated with footage of the photogenic President and his family. Letters is clumsily structured as it connects the correspondence to major themes of the Administration, from Civil Rights to the Cold War, but it captures a sense of how shock gave way to profound elegiac expression—one without equal in 20th-century America.

Penguins: Waddle All the Way

Discovery, Nov. 23, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

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For all we know, penguins may stretch their little flappers and greet the dawn with no more joy than Louis C.K. "What does it all mean? What is my day? Sitting on an egg. Dodging sea lions. Getting through the winter." But they're so cute! This two-hour special, filmed with the assistance of cameras concealed in animatronic penguins, observes three species—the emperor, the rockhopper and the Humboldt—as they migrate, mate, fish and raise their young. They also slip and fall on ice and rock formations but bounce back up like rubber bath toys. And, of course, they waddle at full throttle. Delightful.


YOU've gotta see this ...


Presidential doctor Toni Collette, still caught up in a terrible conspiracy, is handed the toxin to finish off her patient. CBS, Nov. 18.


The illusionist dazzles stars including Will Smith and - whah? - Woody Allen. ABC, Nov. 19.


We're down to the Top 10, who'll perform live for Christina Aguilera and the other coaches. Be brave, my little songbirds. NBC, Nov. 18.

We're pushing on to the second half of a Brody-light season 3 of the Showtime hit (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET/PT), and it's been good. Really good. Unlike sloppy season 2, this time the story has kept a tight, incisive focus on a CIA trying to balance espionage and politics. It's also shown us a Saul (Mandy Patinkin) whose fondness for Carrie (Claire Danes) doesn't rule out ruthless control.

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NCIS: Los Angeles recently celebrated its 100th episode. Is that surreal?

It never ceases to amaze me how lucky we are. This morning we were shooting a chase scene on a yacht, and between takes I thought, "What is this life?"

You and wife Sarah Wright just welcomed a son, Wyatt, in August.

He's amazing. When I walk in the door, he sees me and gets this gummy smile. It feels so good to come home to that. And he's a big boy. About 19 lbs. now! Sarah is totally fit because she's carrying around this giant baby all day long.

Your costar Daniela Ruah is expecting. Are you giving her parenting advice?

No, but I do find myself being more protective of her. When we're doing scenes and guns are going off, I'm like, "It's kind of loud—maybe you should go outside."


Dracula is such a legendary character. What's it like playing the world's most famous vampire?

When I first took it on, there was all this apprehension because there have been about 15,000 productions already made, and so many people have done it well. We tried to stay away from the normal Dracula as much as possible and make him more Jay Gatsby.

Vampires are hot right now. Have you had a crazy fan reaction since the show began?

Twilight and True Blood have made vampires very cool and sexy. But I live a very quiet life in London. I don't tend to go out and parade myself around looking for that type of attention.

Is it harder to act while wearing fangs?

They give me a lisp! I have to rerecord everything I say when I'm wearing them. It's very difficult to speak without sounding like Donald Duck.

What's something fans would be surprised to learn about you?

If I weren't an actor I would certainly want to be an architect. I like creating ideas for houses and building houses.