TV Picks: ‘Humans,’ ‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Documentary Now’


Gemma Chan as Anita in “Humans.”

(Des Willie/Kudos / AMC)

 “The fall is upon us” may not have the same ominous ring as “Winter is coming,” but believe me, the slate of new and returning shows is just as full, and seemingly just as regenerative, as an army of White Walkers. So you might want to pace yourself; do a light TV workout for the next few weeks. A few suggestions:

“Humans.” This was my favorite show of the summer, and I know this because it was the only one I kept up with on a weekly basis, and its first season comes to an end this week after a truly upsetting penultimate episode.

Which I am now going to mention so, you know, SPOILER ALERT.

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The apparent death of William Hurt’s Dr. Millican last week in the arms of his beloved but glitchy synth, Odi (Will Tudor), was one of the most moving scenes in televised sci-fi history, but it also leaves an enormous hole in the show.

Which is why I use the term “apparent death,” albeit with little hope. This is a show in which at least one person has been brought back to life via technology, although Millican seemed pretty darn dead.

Millican, an early developer of synth technology before he was fired by the man who eventually perfected it, was never at the center of the story. Instead, “Humans” revolves around a small group of androids, or synthetics, who have somehow achieved consciousness. Raised initially as a family, they were disbanded by an unfortunate “mad scientist” event that I will not spoil. The first season has been about their truly superhuman efforts to reunite, which they do, finally, with the aid of a human family plagued by similar individual dysfunctions.

Retired, isolated and mourning the death of his wife, Millican flickered in and out of the main story, providing context and hope for a human evolution similar to that of the thinking synths. Hurt’s performance was mesmerizing in its gentle brilliance, infusing “Humans” with the sort of wisdom and empathy that the sci-fi genre so often lacks.


So much so that it’s difficult to imagine how “Humans” will continue to juggle its clever plot and surprising emotional grace without him.

Which is why the season finale is so important: Either he’s not really dead, or “Humans” has something else in store. AMC, 9 p.m. Sunday.

“The Doctor’s Finest.” In preparation for the return of “Doctor Who,” YouTube star Hannah Hart hosts a series of the eight “finest” episodes (chosen by someone who wasn’t me, or you, so no doubt there will be many outraged comments, like “No ‘Lady in the Fireplace’? What?!?!”

Hart promises all sorts of bonus stuff, including interviews, fan videos and Comic-Con footage, all of which will no doubt be very fun, and if you don’t see your favorite eight represented, you can always build your own retrospective via Netflix. BBC America, 8 p.m. Saturdays.

“Documentary Now.” Spinning off from a faux history of punk rock doc they did for “Saturday Night Live,” Bill Hader and Fred Armisen have created a series of short films spoofing famous documentaries and the cult of documentary itself. The first, “Sandy Passage,” sends up the Maysles brothers’ iconic portrait of Big Edie and Little Edie Beale. The second is “Kunuck Uncovered,” a satiric “tell-all” about the making of “Kanuck the Hunter.”

Fans of “Portlandia” know that Armisen can do just about anything, but it’s Hader, who recently costarred in the comedy film “Trainwreck,” who walks off with the first two episodes, which perfectly capture both the power and the preciousness of certain types of docs, along with the public obsession with extreme lives that fuels their success.  IFC, 10 p.m. Thursdays.


An earlier version of this list incorrectly identiid “Sandy Passage” as “Sandy Garden” and “Kunuck Uncovered” as “Kanuck Uncovered.”



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