Although Creepy, ‘Next’ is Great Fun

Fernanda Andrade and John Slattery in "Next"

When you’ve seen the teaser trailers for FOX’s new series, Next you probably thought two things: 1) “Hey, it’s that guy from Mad Men!” and 2) “He looks better without a beard!”

John Slattery stars in this new series from creator and executive producer Manny Coto who is known for his work on 24: Legacy. Described by the network as a fact-based thriller, Next is similar in tone to 24 where it straddles the line between being over-the-top and creepily realistic. Being that I’m not very technology-minded, I go back and forth thinking “That will never happen” and “Gee, could that really happen?” Either way, the likable cast and intriguing storyline makes for a entertaining time.

Paul LeBlanc (John Slattery) and Ted (Jason Butler Harner) (Jean Whiteside/FOX)

Slattery plays Paul LeBlanc, a silicon valley pioneer and millionaire who has spent his entire lifetime building up a legacy now wanting to tear it all down. He actually does have some simulaties to his former character role on Mad Men in that he has a sharp tongue and isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. In the pilot episode he meets up with his estranged daughter Abby (Elizabeth Cappuccino) who says that she only came for the visit in hopes that maybe he has changed. He hasn’t apparently. And his younger brother Ted (Jason Butler Harner) has to remind Paul that he is no longer welcome at the company he helped to create.

However rough Paul is around the edges, he does have a couple of excuses for his recent odd behavior. For one, he has a rare and odd disease that keeps him from sleeping regularly. The other is he is convinced that one of his former creations called neXt has been started up again even though Ted promised him that it was shut down. NeXt is considered to be the next generation of smart artificial intelligence programs which litterally has a brain of its own.

However, the pilot opens with frantic man driving erratically down the highway and crashes into another car sending him to the hospital. Although he surrives the crash, his own odd behavior has spooked his daughter who calls apon family friend and special agent, Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade) to investigate. Although seemingly kind, Shea has her own backstory having escaped crime, poverty and a deadly criminal father to remake herself as a force for good. She finds that this hospital patient was carrying Paul’s name and address, along with a recorded video, and was trying to find him in a hurry.

Shea has her own team of people including Gina (Eve Harlow), a high-strung cybercrime agent; Ben (Aaron Moten), a straight-laced, buttoned-up hard worker, who is boring to the point of being interesting; and CM (Michael Mosley), an ex-con hacker with a genius IQ.

Shea is also the happy wife to Ty (Gerardo Celasco) and mother to Ethan (Evan Whitten) who is being bullied by the kids at school and takes refuge in family’s Siri-like device who appears to be asking him questions instead of the other way around.

Ethan (Evan Whitten), Ty (Gerardo Celasco) and Shea (Fernanda Andrade) (Jean Whiteside/FOX)

Before the first episode is over, it becomes clear that LeBlanc and Salazar are the chosen ones tasked with fighting this invisible enemy and preventing a global catastrophe. This superintelligence aims at using all of its knowledge that it has gathered to create allies, turn people against each other and toss to the side all other obstacles standing in its way in order for it survive.

In its press release for the show, FOX adds that the series “marries pulse-pounding action with a layered examination of how technology is invading our lives and transforming us in ways we don’t yet understand” and the show “presents us with a villain unlike anything we’ve ever seen – one whose greatest weapon against us is ourselves.”

As if 2020 wasn’t difficult enough, now we have to contend with this beast called neXt. Fortunately, the story moves swiftly enough to keep one entertained but just a little too crazy to keep one from having nightmares. Unlike the casting of other recent shows which aims of including every type of race and lifestyle imaginable (even if it doesn’t make sense to the story), Next is a little more realistic and features a cast that is both likable and one that you can root for. Let’s hope that they can keep up the momentum for the long run.

Next airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX.

Main Image: Fernanda Andrade and John Slattery (Ed Araquel / FOX)

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