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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Humans is a thought-provoking sci-fi show about human-like robots whose presence is commonplace in a futuristic society. Language, sex, and violence are mild, but young viewers may be unsettled by the constant body-horror imagery: shots of (seemingly) people in unnatural positions, with odd-looking eyes, lying or hanging limply like corpses. Robots overload and harm humans; they shut down and appear to be dead; some are stored in body bags. Scenes take place in a robot brothel with female robots dancing in lingerie, and men and women cyborgs are seen in underwear, although there's no nudity.
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What's the story?
In a futuristic world that looks much like our own, stressed-out HUMANS are relying more and more on "synths," human-like robots that perform as untiring servants for their flesh-and-blood masters. They do laundry, drive kids to school, cook dinners, hand out medications, keep pacemakers in tune, and do it all as efficiently and emotionlessly as machines. Or do they? In the busy Hawkins family, Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) has taken it upon himself to purchase Anita (Gemma Chan) while wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson) is out of town. At first, Anita seems to be the answer to the family's prayers. But soon, Laura and Joe realize that Anita's presence has far-reaching consequences none of them ever considered, particularly in connection with the three Hawkins children. And Anita herself is coming to terms with an uncomfortable fact -- she and some of her fellow synths are developing feelings.
Is it any good?
Creepy catnip for sci-fi fans who enjoy smart food for thought, Humans has more to offer than typical space shoot-'em-ups. In a modern world where people are increasingly reliant on -- and affectionate toward -- the machines that make our lives run more smoothly, the jump to a perfect humanoid servant seems a natural one. Wouldn't we all like a second pair of hands? Humans' premise is that the machines we've invented will offer just that -- but a lot more too. Watching Anita and her composed robot brethren interact with humans, performing tasks such as picking up garbage or washing dishes, is unsettling. But what's really unsettling is the gradually revealed idea that somehow she and a few other cyborgs have gained consciousness, with memories, thoughts, and feelings. Equally creepy: The Hawkins and other humans are developing feelings right back, treating the robots variously as sex slaves, substitute family members, and co-parents.
It's an interesting and timely idea, and well-executed, too, with great writing, tense plotting, and fine acting from a cast that will be mostly unknown to American viewers (with the exception of William Hurt, who relies on his synth "son" to spark beautiful memories of his late wife). Humans will give most viewers a chill and make them think, the mark of the very best sci-fi.
Talk to your kids about ...
Do machines think and feel? Why does the idea of thinking, feeling machines make us nervous? How would it change our relationship with them?
The synths in Humans mostly appear to be young and fit. Why? Why is there ethnic diversity but not diversity in age or body type?
Artificial life that gains consciousness is a common sci-fi theme. Which other movies or TV shows can you name with that theme? How is Humans similar to or different from these dramas?