'Almost Human' Producers Credit 'NYPD Blue' for Series Blueprint

Executive producer J.H. Wyman said that the world in which the show is set is "immediately accessible," and they are not "presenting a dystopian future."
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"Almost Human" panel

The creative team behind Fox's Almost Human is hoping to find a middle ground between being a procedural and a heavily mythologized drama.

From Fringe's J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams, Almost Human is set 35 years into the future, when humans in the Los Angeles Police Department are paired up with androids. Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban), who dislikes robots, is forced to team up with an android, Dorian (Michael Ealy), with the ability to feel.

While Wyman admitted during the Television Critics Association press tour session Thursday that he realized early on mythology was key to the success of Fringe, Almost Human "is a police drama" and didn't shy away from the show being labeled a "procedural."

He and executive producer Naren Shankar credited NYPD Blue as a blueprint they hoped to follow, where there will be cases of the week that are solved, but the arcs of the characters become the common thread in the show. "We're hoping that people will care about [the characters]," Wyman said.

"We're looking for that great middle ground," Shankar said of Fringe and CSI, the latter of which he served as an executive producer.

To hear the executive producers tell it, setting Almost Human in the "not-too-distant future" is a big selling point. While there is a lot of fantasy and fairy tale fare on TV screens, Shankar argued, tackling futurism and "where technology is taking us" is "one of the things that distinguishes Almost Human."

"We're not presenting a dystopian future," Wyman said. "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."

In researching for the series, the producers met with someone at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was an expert in robot ethics to help craft the show's foundation. Shankar pointed to a moment in the pilot that will be explored further as the season progresses: "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 will come to realize that.

One of the larger questions that surfaced during the pilot references how new technology may not always be better. Wyman hinted that "maybe the old ways of doing things is better." 

The sci-fi genre is something that stays close to Wyman's heart. "It's such an incredible arena to tell great stories of the human condition," he said. "Done properly, we can really find some areas that really haven't been examined on network television [yet]."

Almost Human premieres Nov. 4 on Fox.

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