With shows like Westworld and Black Mirror rocketing to the forefront of pop conversation every time they’re released, it’s hard to argue against “technology is bad” media as a hot flavor right now.
And in truth, this kind of story has always done very well for itself. The Terminator series. Ghost In The Shell. Eagle Eye. Chappie. The Blade Runner series.
They’re compelling stories with high stakes and a touch (just barely a touch) of realism.
neXt on FOX is an attempt to insert this highly successful world into the realm of cable television. But the wheel has already been invented, and creator Manny Coto’s attempt to reimagine it doesn’t strike enough innovative chords.
The Story Thus Far
In the show’s opener, pre-supposed smart guy Bernard Weiss is hunted down and killed by a rogue AI by means of a staged car accident. Weiss had discovered the AI while “uploading some stuff to the cloud,” and the AI’s self-preservation instincts demanded his head.
The AI is the bastardized brainchild of disgraced tech giant Paul LeBlanc, who now has to team up with FBI Special Agent Shea Salazar to stop this dangerous super intelligence before it’s too late.
The Show’s Issues
neXt is frustratingly compelling in the same way that many network dramas are. The show sets the stage for serious dramatic moments and underdelivers on them.
For instance, LeBlanc is haunted again and again by two men framed with ominous music before quickly revealing that he suffers from hallucinations, wiping away any sense of intrigue or potential subplots hiding in the wings.
The show tries to reskin the “Tech Bad” story in the flaky, paper-thin guise of a cyber crime drama. It’s a decent premise, but there’s a reason that the cyber crime genre has to meld with high-flying action or political games to be any good. Cyber crime on its own just doesn’t make decent entertainment.
Another significant criticism is the performance of John Slattery, whom you may know as Roger Sterling from Mad Men or Howard Stark from the MCU. Slattery has made a name for himself as a character actor specializing in smirking know-it-alls with little emotional capacity or empathy.
Well, wouldn’t you know? Slattery’s Paul LeBlanc is a smirking know-it-all with little emotional capacity and empathy.
At one point, an employee at LeBlanc’s former company warns, “I really don’t appreciate the condescending tone,” to which LeBlanc replies, “That’s my only tone.”
Maybe it’s time to try a new one, Jack.
The Final Verdict
If you enjoy crime procedurals like Law & Order or NCIS, you may be enticed by the science fiction aspect of the show, but I wouldn’t guarantee it. Whether you approach it as a spicy CSI or a grounded version of Westworld, you’ll come away wanting.
I rate neXt on FOX as No Better Than Background Noise.
neXt was cancelled either shortly before or as it began airing, so you don’t need to worry about avoiding it for long. Its first and only season will air to completion on FOX and appear on a rolling basis on Hulu for now.