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FOX (ended 2014)

The smoldering crater left in the lives of Fringe fans will never be patched over, but the upcoming new drama Almost Human from Fringe co-showrunner J.H. Wyman at least has a chance to smooth it out. Set 40 years in the future, Almost Human follows a rugged robot-hating cop named John Kennex (Star Trek's Karl Urban) who gets paired up with an emotionally advanced android partner named Dorian (Michael Ealy). Yep, it's the Odd Couple buddy cop movie with a sci-fi twist. 

But in talking to the producers and cast members at an intimate press session at Comic-Con, they made it clear that the series will deal with the ideas of artificial intelligence, but maybe not in the exact way you'd expect. This isn't necessarily a story about a robot trying to be human.

Producer Naren Shankar, who spent years on various Star Trek series, cleared it up. "On Stark Trek: The Next Generation it was a little different, I feel," he said. "For me, Data on Star Trek was really the story of Pinocchio. It was the wooden boy who wanted to become a real boy. So the storylines were all about, 'I want to understand dreaming this episode.' Or 'I want to have a child this episode.' With Data, he wasn't human but he wanted to understand humanity. In Almost Human it kind of got turned on its head, which I frankly found very attractive about the show. Because you have a synthetic who is actually quite human, and in many respects more human than the human [Urban's Kennix character]. And the human, who has synthetic parts, he seems a little bit disengaged and disconnected. The notion of a robot actually teaching him how to become human was more interesting. It wasn't an issue of sentience with Dorian, where as it was always a question of 'Is he a living creature? Is he just a machine?' with Data."

But as with any show, it's going to come down to characters and how they interact. Urban sees Kennex as a man who's a little beaten down and afraid of technology, and Dorian as the man who might help him change his perspective in it. Dorian's yearning to succeed in his second chance–his model was decommissioned because his ability to have free will and emotions didn't make him an ideal cop–often ends up being annoying to Kennex which doesn't help ease Kennex's feelings either. Making matters worse, Kennex has a synthetic leg–the result of an accident caused by a rigid old android partner–that he has difficulty living with. But is it a psychological rejection of the leg or an actual nuts-and-bolts problem?

Wyman and Shankar were also very eager to explain that there future wasn't something to fear. Although crime is rampant and the cities are washed out with asphalt greys, this isn't a downer of a show. "I think anybody who is into science-fiction understands the whole concept of Blade Runner, to me, is the guidepost and benchmark of [a sci-fi] visual style," said Wyman. "But there was one thing that was of concern to me, I didn't want it to be dystopian. Because I don't believe that. I believe the human race will get wise and we'll be able to interact with technology in ways that isn't gong to make it rain all the time."

Shankar echoed his thought. "The notion that technology creating tremendous problems and creating awful things, if you're going to be honest about it, you also have to say technology represents the only chance that we have to fix everything. It's our one weapon as a species to make good the things we've made bad. Part of the thing we want to do on the show is show both sides of that. It creates bad things but it also gives you some kind of hope. We're not talking about a purely dystopian future, we also want to show that there's a chance for optimism. If we can figure out how to work biology and technology together, we'll end up in a really good place."

Almost Human debuts on Fox on November 4.

EXTRA NOTES

– Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights) plays a cop in the show, and apparently her character has some real tricks up her sleeve.

– Wyman on working with former Fringe stars in Almost Human: "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about Fringe in some way or form, and I keep in touch with everybody and of course I want to bring them all back. All I've ever said is it's gotta be worthy, if you bring a John Noble back, you better do something pretty good." 

– Michael Ealy almost didn't take the part, thinking that his character wouldn't be able to have depth without the ability to do normal things like have a love interest. But the more he thought about it and realized Dorian had free will, the more he realized, "Why couldn't he?"

– Wyman also wants to stay away from singular big bad guys, and would rather focus on the world he's created as the potential antagonist.


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 3/3/2014

Season 1 : Episode 13

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iRobot to the bone... The limb, the partner, the hard to accept technology or whatever. I like the concept and will definitely watch the show but did they have to borrow that much from the movie?
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"On Stark Trek: The Next Generation it was a little different, I feel," he said.

Ooo, all the Stark kids manning a starship? I'd watch that! Or... maybe not.
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The pilot looked cliche to me, but it appears to me as though the creators are working to create something warm and intriguing. I might give it a chance.
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