It may be a familiar set up, with some familiar issues, but J.J. Abrams and J.H. Abrams are ready to embrace the vast world they’ve created in ‘Almost Human.’
“The story is very different than anything we’ve done before,” explained Abrams during a conference call on Thursday. “It is very much a cop procedural show, and the fun of that was twisting it in a way that Joel came up with, setting it in a place with specific characters that set up cases that don’t feel familiar.
“I think this show has a level of humor that is distinct from what we’ve done before,” Abrams added, whose Bad Robot Productions include 'Cloverfield,' 'Super 8,' 'Alias,' and 'Fringe.'
The two-night series premiere beginning Sunday, Nov. 17, will introduce audiences to a world set 35 years in the future, where advances in technology and a rise in danger have paired human police officers with robotic partners, called synthetics. Karl Urban, who worked with Abrams on the ‘Star Trek’ franchise reboot, plays John Kennex, the human cop to Michael Ealy’s robot Dorian.
“He’s worried about the advances of technology: where that leads humanity, what the world looks like,” said Wyman of Urban’s character, joining his creative partner and fellow executive producer on the call. “He appreciates technology, but he still has a problem of the line between humanity and robotics, or synthetics.”
‘Blade Runner’ references are easy to spot in the pilot, a film for which Wyman professed great admiration. There will too surely be other nods and cues, and it’s not hard to recall 2004’s ‘I, Robot,’ for instance, a film where Will Smith’s detective distrusted of technology, but due to an accident, is given a robotic prosthesis.
In the ‘Almost Human,’ pilot, Kennex’s squad is ambushed and killed, and Kennex is given a synthetic enhancement. In some ways then, the two explains, Dorian might be more human than Kennex.
So while allusions abound, a lengthy series will give the creators an opportunity to pave their own path. They’re curiously to explore the differences and similarities between humans and robots, and they sought out experts to help do just that.
“J.J. set us up with very, very brilliant people from MIT, one of whom was a woman who studies robot ethics,” explained Wyman. “When you talk to her, you get the idea, yeah, this is definitely coming. What are their rights? Where are those line drawn? What exactly is a robot; is it able to think, able to be?”
For the theory, though, Abrams and Wyman still want to make sure the series is pure fun, one that you can follow from the start, or jump into at any time. It’s a futuristic world decidedly not dark and dystopian, and one that sets up for a lot of potential stories and intrigues.
“These are cops, so every week they are going to show up to work, have a case, and it’s going to be compelling and fun,” said Wyman.
“It’s fun working with someone who loves the what-if,” added Abrams. [Wyman] is able to imagine situations and characters that make you laugh and make you squirm, because the ideas are sort of close to what’s possible.”
'Almost Human' debuts on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 8/7c, and the second episode will follow on Monday, Nov. 18 at 8/7c.