The influences feel too numerous to cite, but the more obvious examples would include “The X-Files” in the show’s structure and “The Terminator” in its central threat, with a pinch of “Person of Interest.” In this case, it’s an AI that has become sentient, posing a serious danger to humanity, and using every technical tool in its sizable quiver to fight back.
Leading the defense, meanwhile, is an eccentric tech innovator, Paul LeBlanc (“Mad Men’s” John Slattery), who enlists an initially skeptical FBI agent, Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade), as an ally. The list of those imperiled mushrooms out to those around them, with the AI — in what feel like fairly chilling scenarios — using an Alexa-like voice app as a means to try manipulating Salazar’s young son, and later altering digital road signs.
Fox actually made five episodes available, and happily, the show maintains reasonably good momentum as this high-tech game of cat and (computer) mouse proceeds, with a few detours along the way.
Slattery is especially good as the fast-talking genius, a guy who never sleeps and has made a hash out of most of his significant relationships. There’s a touch of “Elementary” in that, though his adversary poses challenges even Professor Moriarty couldn’t have imagined.
Like the aforementioned ’70s examples — among them “Demon Seed” and “Colossus: The Forbin Project” — tales of runaway AI invariably involve unintended consequences, and failing to recognize the risk of our creation turning on us, like Frankenstein’s monster, until it’s too late.
“We’re headed over a cliff,” LeBlanc says in a later episode, “but nobody cares ’cause it seems kinda cool.”
So far, “NEXT” is kind of cool too. But the real challenge will be in sustaining this battle of humans against a machine, without taking a turn that careens off a cliff.
“NEXT” premieres Oct. 6 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.