The universe is not lacking in fantastical television plots. From Once Upon A Time to True Blood, we as a society are knee deep in the supernatural. There is also no shortage of procedural dramas, as series such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Criminal Minds have been wildly successful with viewers.
How then does a creative team find balance in a show that combines both of these themes? This is something that J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams (apparently, abbreviations are the new name trend) have been struggling with lately regarding their show Almost Human.
The show is set 35 years in the future, during a time when the LAPD call androids their partners, rather than humans. Insert typical plotline here: Hardnosed Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) is not hip to the robot craze, but finds himself paired up with a mechanical partner despite his prejudice. But not just any robot, no no no. A robot with FEELINGS.
Wyman recognizes that Fringe’s success hinged highly upon the mythology behind the central story line, but tried to clarify at the Television Critics Association press conference that Human would not necessarily fit that mold. He called Almost Human “a police drama” and has unabashedly labelled it “procedural.”
Naren Shankar, who has will be executive producing, attributed the show’s general layout to NYPD Blue. It will follow that one case a week flow, but will also focus more on character development, as opposed to just making them the faces behind the cases.
"We’re hoping that people will care about [the characters]," Wyman explained.
"We’re looking for that great middle ground," Shankar stated of Fringe and CSI, though he may be slightly biased, as he acted as executive producer on the latter.
Abrams and Shankar believe that setting Human in the “not-too-distant future” will be a big draw for fans. Shankar points out that while he realizes that we have been inundated with mythological and fantastical shows as of late, their futuristic take will focus heavily on “where technology is taking us” as it is “one of the things that distinguishes Almost Human.”
"We’re not presenting a dystopian future," Wyman clarified. "This is immediately accessible. … It’s just that in this slightly futuristic vision, society is dealing with elements and difficulties that are just a little beyond the curve for us."
Like any good showrunners delving into an unfamiliar topic, the pair enlisted the help of a robot ethics expert from MIT. This expert helped them lay the foundation of the show. Shankar focused on a moment from the pilot that will prove to be some serious foreshadowing: “When John throws the [android cop] MX out of the car, he doesn’t think he’s human. It’s like throwing a power sander out of the car. In the long arc of the show, in Dorian — even though he’s a machine — he’s a living, sentient creature,” and John’s plight is to realize that.
The pilot also focuses on how technology’s rapid growth may not always be what’s best for the world. Wyman’s little teaser of “maybe the old ways of doing things is better” got tongues wagging.
Wyman is a creature of habit, and sci-fi is his niche. “It’s such an incredible arena to tell great stories of the human condition,” he mused. “Done properly, we can really find some areas that really haven’t been examined on network television [yet].”
Do you plan to tune into Fox on November 4th for the Almost Human premier?