Technological Foresight.

I’ve had this lingering memory of a lawyer-based television show set in the future. I remembered watching it once or twice and that one of the witnesses on the stand is asked the name of the current President of the United States. The answer? “Oprah Winfrey”. My other memory of the show was that while it took place in the future, it didn’t take place far in the future, maybe a decade or two.

Yesterday during a lull at work I execute some cleverly worded Google searches and found the show in question: “Century City”.


“Century City” was a mid-season replacement for CBS in 2004. Only nine episodes were made; I believe the original run was for eight episodes. From what I’ve found online, this short series is available on Hulu. I’ve been watching it on YouTube. This morning I was watched the pilot episode. The main cast is comprised of all familiar faces, before watching it this morning I hadn’t remembered the Viola Davis was on the show. She’s pretty much playing a tamed down version of Annalise Keating (“How To Get Away With Murder”) without the flash-forwards and intensity of being involved in several murders.

I digress.

The show is set in the year 2030. The pilot contained several current day topics including the ethics of cloning, plastic surgery and the use of steroids. Court proceedings can take place via hologram. The plot of the pilot was good but it didn’t blow me away. I look forward to watching the rest of the series as time permits.

The one thing that fascinated me about the show is how the writers and production staff saw the future. Since the show was produced in 2004, before smartphones and tablets became mainstream devices, their view of the future is a little more desktop computer based than I expected it to be. The desktop computers look futuristic with their translucent displays and tiny bases supporting them. The storylines seem to indicate that Microsoft continues its monopoly and grew in ways from what we’ve seen in real life (apparently in a later episode it is mentioned that Microsoft put the first colony on the Moon.) Everyone is tied to their desktop, no one is walking around with a tablet, heck, no one is even walking around with a Star Trek Tricorder.

Other advancements in this Century City future are quite interesting: pitless cherries, seedless grapes, high speed bullet trains in Los Angeles (much like the Hyperloop that Elon Musk is working on), holograms everywhere and PowerPoint presentations via 3D displays. This stuff was quite nifty.

One thing that I enjoyed was the tackling of the philosophical challenges of their future: the ethics behind cloning, the purposeful manipulation of DNA to create designer babies and Mick Jagger still performing at a Boston concert at 87 years old, thanks to age defying steroids and plastic surgery (he’s not on the show, a “boy band” of 70 year old men mentions his name when defending their genetic manipulation).

And most interestingly, the idea that Oprah Winfrey became President at age 76.

The future wasn’t all rosy in “Century City” but I think it was believable in 2004. It’s a shame this show didn’t do better. It’s a nice cross between a legal procedural and science fiction. I look forward to watching the handful episodes of the show.

And maybe I’ll write Oprah’s name in come November.