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Here are some shows about artificial intelligence and protecting the little guy
Whether you watched Person of Interest when it originally aired on CBS, picked up on it in syndicated reruns, or streamed it on HBO Max, we can all agree that Person of Interest is the greatest bromantic artificial intelligence cybercrime thriller procedural to air on a major broadcast network ever. The underrated series starred Jim Caviezel as a former special forces soldier and Michael Emerson as a tech genius who helped out people in trouble (or rushed to stop people who caused trouble) with the help of an advanced artificial intelligence that could predict crimes before they happened. Early in its run, Person of Interest revealed itself as a smarter show than it initially let on, with statements on corporate greed, government surveillance, and organized crime.
But what should you watch next if you're itching for more Person of Interest? We've scoured the TV universe for more shows that tackle artificial intelligence, technology, crime, and men on the run.
In FX's The Old Man, Jeff Bridges plays a former CIA agent who is hunted down by his own government. Sound familiar? The similarities to John Reese are there, but the real reason you'll want to watch is because Bridges' Dan Chase has some canine friends that will remind you of POI's Bear! The two rottweilers follow his every order, rip people's throats out, and are very good boys. But beyond the pooches, The Old Man has all the government coverups and double crosses that you loved from Reese's story in Person of Interest, but more hand-to-hand combat and none of the procedural storylines about helping people out. It's full of Fugitive style cat-and-mouse games, with Bridges hunted down by John Lithgow's FBI man.
Person of Interest was a master of the serialized procedural format, featuring standalone stories that all fed into a greater, overarching mythology. The show that perfected that was J.J. Abrams' Fringe, a sci-fi series that ran for five seasons on Fox from 2008 to 2013. The series starred Anna Torv as an FBI agent who teams up with eccentric scientist Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his estranged son (Joshua Jackson) to investigate the unexplainable. But by the end of Season 1, Fringe becomes a whole lot more than an X-Files clone as the bigger picture becomes clear and conspiracies are afoot. Like Person of Interest, Fringe sucks you in with self-contained stories but keeps you watching with its grander questions. And remember that series highlight when Finch did ecstasy and partied with a microwave? Fringe's Walter regularly does LSD and hangs out with a cow! Both are sneakily funny, while also maintaining intrigue.
Person of Interest creator Jonathan Nolan sure does love artificial intelligence. In fact, Person of Interest and "the machine" was kind of a spiritual prequel to his biggest show, Westworld. The adaptation of the 1973 film that featured robots turning against their masters at a theme park still has killer androids in it, but Nolan expands on the A.I. component and blows it out into a global conspiracy where the action outside of the park is bigger than what's going on inside of it. As the layers get peeled back — Westworld begins as an epic Western before revealing its true self later in Season 1 and going to completely unexpected places in later seasons — Westworld goes far beyond the complex mythology of Person of Interest. At times too ambitious for its own good, Westworld isn't without its bumps, but when it's all clicking, it's one of the most impressive sci-fi shows on TV.
For a very brief period in the early 2010s, it looked like TV was trying to revive the glory days of the action heroes of yesteryear, with Fox's Human Target premiering one season before Person of Interest. The two shows were throwbacks, with Human Target happily playing in the sandboxes built by The Equalizer, The Fall Guy, and others. Based on a DC comic of the same name, Human Target starred Mark Valley as Christopher Chance, an assassin-for-hire who changes his identity to protect his clients. It makes for varied cases-of-the-week as Chance finds himself in all sorts of situations that require both his smarts and his fists to get out of, and while the overarching plot of Chance running away from his old boss isn't as deep as Person of Interest's, it's a fun popcorn show and good substitute for Person of Interest when you don't want to tax your brain with talk of runaway A.I. It's not currently streaming anywhere, but since it's a Warner Bros. Television show, we're hoping it gets added to HBO Max soon.
Person of Interest wouldn't be what it is without John Reese, the sardonic ex-military man who doesn't say a lot, but sure does make his words count. That same "speak softly and carry a big stick" mentality is found in spades in Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson), the hero of Amazon's 2021 hit Reacher. While Reacher doesn't involve any grand conspiracy and evil A.I., it is a solid procedural where character is as important as the crime and disarming humor — usually from Reacher making fun of his stuffy partner (sound familiar?) — breaks up the seriousness. If you watched Person of Interest for Reese, you'll dig Reacher. [More shows like Reacher]
The infusion of undercover action with science-fiction technology is a main draw of Person of Interest; watching Reese go in disguise at the behest of advanced artificial intelligence was a great twist on the typical procedural. Joss Whedon's 2009 series Dollhouse follows a similar model, telling a story about people, led by Eliza Dushku's Echo, who have their memories wiped clean and new memories implanted to become whoever the Dollhouse's rich and/or powerful clients want them to be (an escort, a bodyguard, a mole, etc.). That format allows Dollhouse to jump around from genre to genre, all while slowly piecing together an epic, overarching sci-fi storyline as Echo slowly retains memories and skills from the various jobs she goes on and uncovers the truth about what she's doing there. Dollhouse also features Person of Interest favorite Amy Acker (Root), who plays a major role as the company's doctor with a secret past. Like Person of Interest, Dollhouse got better as it went along. This show got slept on so hard.
Person of Interest's Machine and Samaritan posed grave questions about the viability of artificial intelligence, determinism, and a new era of human society, but if you'd like to go even deeper into those ideas at, like, an advanced college course level, Hulu's Devs is ready to melt your brain. It's the first TV series from writer-director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) and follows a software engineer (Sonoya Mizuno) whose boyfriend is killed while working on a top secret project at the enormous tech company where they work. Nick Offerman plays the company's enigmatic CEO who is developing something so revolutionary, it's impossible to describe here (and would be a major spoiler, too). Devs is a murder mystery wrapped in sci-fi, gorgeously shot, and a philosopher's playground.
Person of Interest carved out a spot for itself as an engrossing CBS procedural set in New York City in which a stranger fights for people who can't fight for themselves. That mantle has been taken over by CBS's newest hit series, The Equalizer, a reboot of the 1980s series (which Person of Interest was influenced by) that's been updated with Queen Latifah as the titular purveyor of karma. Robyn McCall (Latifah) is a former CIA agent who uses her skills to bring vigilante justice to the streets of the Big Apple, working with a team of experts to even out the playing field. It's got the same procedural, standalone stories mixed with action and some humor, and I'd be willing to bet a hundred bucks that a lot of the Person of Interest crew now works on The Equalizer, because the shows have a very similar look. It's the closest thing to Person of Interest on TV right now.