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Channel 4’s Humans, Worth the Hype?

By Ella Downing
Channel 4’s Humans, Worth the Hype?

Closer to humans than ever before...

On Sunday, Channel 4’s new unnerving drama Humans premiered after weeks of guerrilla marketing. There was the teaser ad for ‘Persona Synthetics’ which confused and scared viewers who believed synthetic people were now available to purchase. 

A Persona Synthetics pop up store was opened on London’s Regent Street which, sparked a flurry of excitment and people headed over to The Persona Synthetics web page had 423,000 visits in just two days. An eBay page has been set up auctioning two different synths, Charlie and Sally, with 200,000 views. It's obviously worked as 4 million viewers tuned in to watch on Sunday night making Humans Channel 4's biggest ever originated drama launch. But did Humans live up to all this hype?

Humans is produced by Kudos, the producers behind Utopia and Broadchurch. Based on the Swedish drama from 2012 'Real Humans.'

 The drama is set in a 'parallel present' where synthetic robots are now available to purchase to be your live-in housekeepers, childminders, chefs and even well, there's an ‘adult’ upgrade… 

Episode one begins with the Hawkins family. Dad Joe decides to invest in a synth while his wife Laura (Katherine Parkinson) is away working. Their synth Anita (Gemma Chan) is met with mixed reactions by the family and unbeknownst to them is part of a group of renegade synths that have started to become sentient.

Humans has received a positive reception on social media and in the press. A first episode is tricky as it sets the scene and can be hard to get your teeth into. I must say I wasn’t completely gripped throughout but am intrigued to see how the series pans out. As it is set in a parallel present rather than some futuristic dystopia, the writers Sam Vincent and Jon Brackley have tried to make Humans as realistic as possible. In their own words, the drama is “grappling with the philosophical ideas of what it means to be human."

I found it difficult to tackle all these philosophical ideas in episode one. You have Anita who is a robot developing human feelings, we're not sure whether or not we care about her, whether we should. Do the synths make us less human because they do the jobs that make us human or more human because we now have the time to do more important things? Although Gemma Chan was captivating as Anita, I still couldn't help thinking that's a person which confused things even further. Then there's the question of whether or not you'd have a synth, is this the future? And if so is it a future to look forward to?

Humans is treading a difficult path of sci-fi because for the most part it doesn't feel like you're watching a sci-fi at all. It's set in the present with real actors for robots, no CGI or weird metal suits. For the moment at least it's not about these synths taking over the world but it's about their human element, something that has been explored before but not quite like this and I applaud the writers for taking it in this direction. 

But for me it will take a few more episodes to get to grips with what the series is really trying to say. Extensive marketing got people interested in Humans, but now it's time to help people understand it.

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