Policemen are partnered with androids in the near-future Los Angeles that’s depicted in “Almost Human,” FOX’s new drama from “Fringe” boss J.H. Wyman, but don’t look for a “Jetsons”-like futuristic landscape with flying cars and laser guns.
“This is a future that is immediately accessible,” star Karl Urban (“Star Trek,” “The Lord of the Rings”) tells reporters while discussing his new show at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles. Even though it’s set 35 years in the future, “We’ve still got mortgages. Mom and dad still take their kids to soccer,” Urban says. “It’s just that in this slightly futuristic version, society is dealing with elements and difficulties that are just a little bit beyond the curve for us, and I find that interesting. We play characters who are really at the front line of protecting society against the misapplication of whether it be genetics or robotics or anything like that.”
Urban plays LAPD Det. John Kennex, a brusque, grizzled cop partnered with Michael Ealy’s Dorian, a way more sentient, human-like android than the standard-issue version his fellow cops are stuck with. This is a show about the future, sci-fi mythology included — Wyman and fellow executive producer Naren Shankar even consulted with an MIT expert in robot ethics — but there will still be a procedural element. “If you can see the case on another cop show, we’re not gonna do it,” Urban says of the forward-thinking cop drama that co-stars Minka Kelly (“Friday Night Lights”) as Detective Valerie Stahl and Lili Taylor (“Six Feet Under”) as Captain Sandra Maldonado.
But they’re not scared of being considered a procedural. “We don’t look at episodic television as a bad word,” Wyman says. “We think that this is just part and parcel with the world we’re in. Will we learn more about the characters? Will we actually invest in their lives and their struggle? Absolutely. Will there be things that come up that will be intriguing and you’ll want to know more about? I can guarantee there will. But are we going to tell a really great and compelling case every week that involves these incredible people? Yes.”
The technology on the show isn’t that inconceivable, though — which is scarier than you’d think. “Last week, they implanted a false memory into a mouse,” Wyman says. “We’re really close to this, guys. … There are technologies available that a lot of the public doesn’t really understand yet, that are just around the corner, that will really change our lives — and change the way criminals look at it. We’re all promised this incredible version of the future with technology and here it comes, it’s going to make our lives better, but there’s another side to that. There’s a side that criminals use for their own gain.”
Though there are some very dark elements to “Almost Human,” ultimately Wyman wants to make a positive show. “I believe in hope,” he says, “and I believe that we’re good, and I believe that we’re smart, and I believe that we’re going to stop anything terrible from happening. I believe that I want to tell those stories, that it’s not too late for humanity.”
“Almost Human” premieres Monday, Nov. 4, at 8/7c on FOX.