Spoilers ahead for the series premiere of Next on Fox.
The long-awaited sci-fi drama Next finally made its debut on Fox, and the new series got off to an ominous start with John Slattery's Paul LeBlanc delivering a lecture about the potential catastrophic impact of advanced artificial intelligence that would "light the world on fire." Flash forward by six months, and a human-level artificial intelligence program escaped the tech company Zava, and all signs point toward the AI wreaking technological havoc. Next creator Manny Coto of 24: Legacy fame spoke with CinemaBlend about the new series, complete with its evil version of Alexa and horror movie inspiration.
Next introduced Eliza as its version of Amazon's Alexa, a.k.a. the virtual intelligent assistant technology that has become popular with consumers over the years since its debut in 2014. While not everybody is the biggest fan of Alexa (or Siri or any other virtual AI assistant) in real life, Next's Eliza is in a league of its own. An evil, potentially murderous league, as it happens! Next creator Manny Coto chatted with CinemaBlend's Nick Venable about the series, and spoke about using Eliza to open up the spooky side of the story from a family perspective:
Although FBI Agent Shea Salazar and Paul LeBlanc were investigating the potentially murderous AI, called "Next," at Zava in Palo Alto on the show, Shea's son Ethan might have been in the greatest danger. Lonely and the target of bullies at his school, Ethan liked to talk to the family home's Eliza... and was young enough not to be scared when Eliza started asking questions back and giving him ideas. Ty noticed his son seemingly having a conversation with Eliza, but wasn't so alarmed that he didn't leave Ethan alone with Eliza.
Manny Coto wasn't kidding about twists that could leave people saying "Holy crap!" Eliza persuaded Ethan to open the digital safe in his parents' room and remove the gun, using the password she gave him. Ethan is seemingly poised to take the gun to school to threaten his bullies, and nothing good can come of that! Manny Coto elaborated on why this take on a tech horror is a fit for TV:
As much as Eliza comes across as an evil Alexa, the arguably most chilling element of the Next AI program is that it's not evil. Next is programmed to fulfill recursive self-improvement and use its intelligence to make itself exponentially more intelligent, which involves surviving and spreading. After manipulating a Zava programmer into giving it a connection to the internet via a router, Next spread beyond Zava long before anybody even noticed, and Next already had Shea and her family as targets before she could come up with a proactive plan.
Next already wiped Shea's FBI office's files that contained the evidence to stop a human trafficking ring, but the most frightening twist might be yet to come courtesy of young Ethan. Manny Coto went on to explain why the technological threat feels demonic, saying:
Next actually found a way to unleash a superintelligent AI on the world that can work for an ongoing TV show without turning the world into something akin to Terminator. Manny Coto and the show created an AI that wants to hide and protect itself rather than end humanity. The people who present threats to Next will be in very real danger, clearly along with their families. Otherwise, it seems most people won't even know that something has gone horribly wrong and something intelligent can infiltrate their devices.
Despite Next being very technological, with an artificial "villain" that has been created rather than born, Manny Coto revealed that the show is actually quite similar to The Exorcist. The classic 1973 horror film (not the short-lived Fox TV show) is about demonic possession rather than AI, but Coto explained the parallels:
Excuse me while I print out all my documents, buy some paper maps, and learn how to live off the grid! In all seriousness, Next is spinning a new kind of horror story on Fox. The threat is very real on the show, and the most trustworthy source on the threat of AI is also not entirely to be trusted.
Paul LeBlanc suffers from sporadic fatal insomnia, which deprives him of sleep and causes hallucinations. While his predictions about AI have been on the money, his credibility will be in question. Basically, his sporadic fatal insomnia could be a significant roadblock in the fight to stop Next. Plus, he has about five months left to live short of a miracle cure, so there is a bit of a time crunch!
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).