After months of waiting, FOX has unveiled J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman’s futuristic sci-fi police procedural series Almost Human in an ambitious two-night roll-out, premiering the first two episodes back-to-back. The show has been worth the wait – (read our reviews of the premiere and the follow-up) – and looks to have already hit its stride.
With a strong hook – a haunted detective (Dredd and Star Trek star Karl Urban) reluctantly teams up with a unique android (Michael Ealy) to battle out-of-control crime in the year 2048 – as well as some top-notch production values, Almost Human has burst out of the gate with a level of confidence and forward motion missing from other high-profile series premieres (like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is still struggling to find its footing).
The creative team of Star Trek Into Darkness director J.J. Abrams and Fringe co-creator J.H. Wyman is one of the show’s major draws, and in the wake of Almost Human‘s debut, Abrams talked to EW about his thoughts on the future of the show, his level of involvement, his other sci-fi TV show project, and why we might not see a Star Trek TV show for some time.
The future world of Almost Human is quite different from that of Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, which is to be expected. The new show is an original take on where humanity might go, while Star Trek‘s approached was inherited by – and to a large degree dependent upon – the vision of the original 60’s TV show. When asked whether he sees us heading in a utopian or dystopian direction, Abrams answered:
I like to think I’m more of an optimist. So the idea of this show is not my default vision of things. I’m not as optimistic as [Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry was. I fall somewhere in the middle. But as a romantic, I like to think things are going to get bigger rather than worse.
Just two episodes in, Almost Human has already established many of the ground rules for the world, with Urban’s John Kennex and Ealy’s Dorian developing rapidly into fully-realized characters. Abrams provides a generous overview of what we can expect to see from the show, without a single spoiler (although there’s a hint or two at future storyline possibilities):
One of the opportunities about this show is it not only has characters that make you smile and laugh, and relationships that feel as unique as they are familiar, but its uniqueness comes from something that isn’t necessarily possible right now. Like any story-out-of-time, you want characters and situations where you go, “I know what that is. I know what that feels like. I know someone like that” — even though the person might be a different species. In this show, not only are the relationships unique, but the situations the characters find themselves in are equally unique. The paradigm is familiar, but the specifics are different. If there’s a new weapon on the streets, it won’t look like a weapon you’re familiar with, but you can understand it’s a dangerous thing that shouldn’t be in the wrong hands. It might be a bullet that doesn’t shoot the way you expect. It might be a drug that does something to you that’s insane and horrific. It might be something about harvesting organs that isn’t like anything in present day. The technology is part of what’s going on, but there’s a level of relatability and understanding.
The level of Abrams’ involvement in the day-to-day operations of Almost Human is also something that fans may be wondering about. He’s currently deeply entrenched in what is sure to be one of the biggest movies of the already-huge year of 2015: Star Wars: Episode VII. Given such a monster undertaking, Abrams clarifies how present he will be:
I’m as involved as needed. The good news about having [showrunner Joel Wyman] on the show is it’s his pitch, his idea and he’s running the show. When we hear a pitch we like and develop a show — unless it’s something I’ve created and I’m either going to direct the pilot, or oversee or write — we don’t get involved with people who need to be babysat. We are there as necessary. We read scripts, give notes, watch cuts, and just help out however we can.
That said, his relationship with Wyman naturally led to his input in shaping the overall concept of the series, even if that input did not necessarily translate into one specific aspect. According to Abrams:
There are things that happen in the show, all sorts of ideas that come out of conversations and things. There’s little moments and ideas here and there. When Joel was pitching the show, I got so enthusiastic. I loved The Six Million Dollar Man as a kid. The possibility of that as a kid was like candy. All of a sudden on the phone I was just spewing possible ideas of what it could be, and he was just laughing and spewing back. It wasn’t necessarily a specific moment or character, but I hopefully the cheerleader helped Joel do the show he pitched.
Despite Abrams’ level of success and influence – there’s a reason he was handed the means to mold the next generation of two major franchises – his ideas are still rejected by networks. While he understands, he also acknowledges that it generally works out for the best: “And we have been very lucky, frankly, despite being told no, on almost every occasion we resolved it by finding something that does fit. I would never want somebody to say yes to anything they did not truly believe in.”
Almost Human isn’t the only sci-fi TV show Abrams has on his slate – the other is a television remake of Westworld for HBO, based on the 1973 sci-fi western written and directed by the late, great Michael Crichton. Abrams touched on this subject briefly, but could not provide details:
It could not be more different from this show. Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy, who are writing it, have a take on that particular [idea] that I think is mind-blowingly cool, and I cannot wait to be able to talk about it.
NEXT PAGE: New Star Trek TV Series….
Ever since Abrams pumped new life into Star Trek with his alternate-timeline films, talk of some kind of return of the franchise to it’s television roots has persisted. Star Trek: The Next Generation star Michael Dorn once floated the idea of a Captain Worf series, Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller wanted to bring Trek back as a series, and most recently Into Darkness co-writer Roberto Orci was reportedly meeting with Paramount for a Trek show, but nothing conclusive came from it. The difficulty in making this happen – which is something that many, many longtime Star Trek fans would love to see – may have contributed to Abrams jumping to a the other landmark sci-fi universe with Star Wars.
Is there ever going to be a return of Star Trek to television? Abrams gives a tersely diplomatic reply:
I have been hearing for as long as I can remember that CBS, who has the rights to the series, has just been saying they’re not interested. That’s the word I’ve been told.
Given the noted lack of hard science fiction on that network’s various procedurals, sitcoms, and dramas – none of which venture into the out-there realms of, say, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC, NBC’s Dracula reboot, the CW’s Arrow or FOX’s Sleepy Hollow – CBS may feel that the built-in fan-base of a Star Trek show is not enough to possibly displace their established audience.
For the record, CBS apparently responded to Abrams’ comment: “We love the Star Trek franchise, its fan base and the many possibilities for its future when the time is right.”
As for Abrams, he’s one of those A-listers who can theoretically have his pick of projects. When asked what the future may hold for him – and if there are any other existing franchises he’d like to explore – Abrams hinted that he’d like to get back to telling original stories:
There are a few stories I can’t wait to tell. And there are new things we’re developing in-house that are not existing properties. I feel I have inadvertently worked on a number of shows and movies that existed long before my involvement. I couldn’t feel luckier to have gotten a chance to do that. I would say I look forward most to the stories that are to come, that are not based on pre-existing [properties].
So far, Almost Human has been a rare example of the actual product meeting – and then exceeding – expectations. There is no way to tell just yet how much or how little Abrams’ influence will be felt on the show as his other duties inevitably vie for his attention. Abrams has a lot on his plate, along with that little movie set in a galaxy far, far away on the horizon, so our culture won’t be starved for his voice anytime soon. Still, an episodic approach to Star Trek would be most welcome, even if it sounds as if Abrams won’t be involved.
Almost Human airs Mondays @8pm on Fox.
Source: Entertainment Weekly