Century City is an American science fiction-legal drama television series set in Los Angeles in the year 2030.
The show follows the legal team of Crane, Constable, McNeil & Montero. At the helm are the firm's four partners, the founder and senior partner Hannah Crane; veteran attorney Marty Constable; the pleased-with-himself attorney Darwin McNeil; and the former Californian Congressman and newest partner, Tom Montero. The team is supplemented by the ambitious enthusiasm of two young associates, the self-critical and earnest Lukas Gold and the genetically enhanced first-year associate Lee May Bristol.
With the developments of cloning cells, genetic profiling, mind-altering antibiotics and even virtual rape, the attorneys of Crane, Constable, McNeil & Montero find themselves with an ongoing case-load of precedent-setting cases. In a time when lawyers can go before judges as holograms, the firm takes on such morally and ethically ambiguous cases as parents suing their doctor for withholding critical results of their unborn child's genetic mapping; defending a man accused of robbery for "stealing" back his identity from his ex-fiancée who has uploaded his presence and personality; protecting the rights of a woman who has been virtually raped through nanotechnology; and defending a rock star who refused to alter the laws of human nature to help his band stay on top. The attorneys are exceedingly aware that progress and development bring both luxuries and challenges. Tackling uncharted legal territory, Century City provides an eye-opening look into the issues confronting society in the year 2030—the not-so-distant future.
In the year 2030, the United States has 52 states and universal healthcare, Oprah Winfrey is the President of the United States (her Vice President is an openly gay, retired, four-star U.S. armed forces general) and the Moon has been colonized. Genes for homosexuality have been discovered but genetic engineering allows said genes to be deactivated which as a result has impacted the artistic community greatly. Life expectancy for American females is in the mid-nineties.
Century City aired on the American CBS television network on Tuesday evenings and premiered on March 16, 2004. CBS ordered nine episodes, but broadcast only four before cancelling the series. Universal HD began broadcasting episodes on November 29, 2004, including previously unaired episodes. In June 2009 Hulu began offering all 9 episodes for online viewing, however they are cropped from their original widescreen presentations. They also bear an NBC logo, despite being a CBS program, due to Universal Studios owning the show.
The world has passed through some harrowing experiences, like the Brentwood Quake and the war in Iran, but in 2030 things look pretty bright. The world is more interconnected than ever before, thanks to high-resolution holographic projections beamed across the fiberoptic net and scramjets that make weekend trips to other continents commonplace. The wealthy can even visit the lunar colonies on vacation.
In Los Angeles, a maglev monorail connects areas of high population density, and cars powered by emission-free fuel cells whiz along double-decked smart freeways, rarely getting into accidents now that their GPS devices are linked to the traffic grid. Buildings with reactive surfaces flash past, their roofs clad in solar energy panels and overflowing with lush gardens. Paper has almost entirely disappeared from the workplace, and Personal Digital Assistants have subsumed the roles of identification, money, phone, universal remote, and personal computer. Virtual Assistants with low level artificial intelligence are gradually replacing human secretaries.
Though life is better for most people, the advance of technology hasn't solved all our problems; it has simply provided us with a new set. Despite robotic kitchens that effortlessly prepare sanitary food tailored to individual dietary requirements, people still drink sugary Melocola and PheraSlam. Though alcoholism is rare, people have moved on to abusing "new & improved" drugs like synthetic opioids and dopa.
Genetic screening has made the population as a whole more content, well adjusted, personally fulfilled, and healthier; indeed, many of the syndromes and diseases that afflicted people in the twentieth century have been eliminated. However, many people voice concerns that humanity is in danger of losing something essential by this trend toward normative homogeneity. They worry that the richness of human experience will be compromised if we diminish our ability to experience boredom, suffering, alienation, and even despair.
Medical techniques have advanced so quickly that it remains to be seen what unintended consequences they may have, socially as well as physically. The discovery of a "gay gene" has led even unbigoted parents to choose heterosexual children rather than risk the chance of their being persecuted for their sexual orientation. As a result, the nation is in danger of losing a vibrant subculture.
Going further than mere screening, a government program called the Genetic Prototype Project has succeeded in actively engineering people to be stronger, faster, smarter, happier, more resistant to disease, and less susceptible to fatigue, but they have also made them sterile lest their untested new genes escape into the population at large.
Most people are leery of human enhancement when it goes beyond counteracting physical or mental impairment. Augmenting the brains of retarded people with biomechanical devices is one thing, but pumping up athletes with lab-grown muscles, epo receptor mutations, and MGF injections so they can run 45 mph is unpopular with the general public, and enhanced athletes are banned from most sporting events.
The law--always a conservative institution--has some difficulty keeping up with the increasing rate of change in technology, which requires constant redefinitions of old concepts, such as privacy, rape, gender, consciousness, and identity. These redefinitions frequently occur in courtrooms before being addressed by the more cumbrous proceedings of the legislature. Children have more autonomy to sue their parents as a means of getting their way; people make legal contracts with their mistresses, defining availability, exclusivity, and payment schedules. Three people can get married, all at once, in Nevada, and the expanded nuclear family has been popularized by the hit sitcom "Mom, Dad, and Jerry."
Law firms function in essentially the same way as ever, though some large companies have begun outsourcing their legal work to firms in India. Lawyers now benefit from the assistance of virtual jurors programmed to react like members of actual jurors' demographic groups, and they no longer have to do much legal grunt work, such as hunting down evidence and legal precedents, because the tasks are done by virtual assistants that do not need food, sleep, office space, emotional support, or extra pay for overtime, and never sue for harassment, sexual or otherwise.
A lawyer's suit remains a visual analog of his function in society; it has not changed radically in cut since the end of the nineteenth century. Though clothes in 2030 can be programmed to change shape, texture, color, and transparency--with some kids earning pocket money by renting out their clothes as advertising space--such new-fangled fripperies are not deemed appropriate for lawyers, politicians, and businessmen. Not to say that they have not advanced in more subtle ways: fabrics contain pores that close when the weather is cool; they are woven with fibers that serve as heaters and antenna webs for their PDAs; they are cleaned by internal cultures of bacteria; and, in the event of an injury, they constrict to apply pressure to the wound, administer drugs such as painkillers, and notify the nearest hospital of bleeding and vital functions.
Many of the crimes that have troubled human societies for millennia are becoming obsolete, thanks to near-omnipresent surveillance, made possible by the proliferation of small, cheap cameras with high resolution, coupled with sophisticated search algorithms and cheap digital storage. Criminals find it almost impossible to get away with crude offenses like shoplifting, burglary, and murder, but new technology has made entirely new crimes possible, like virtual rape. In an age when every aspect of our lives is monitored, recorded, and managed by computers, hackers have the ability to break the rules and get away with it.
A more negative consequence of omnipresent surveillance is that privacy is in short supply. Not only do professional "snurfers" surf the web and snuff reputations with the public footage they collect and edit, but people are monitored constantly by their smart homes and even their smart clothes. Sound systems record music selections and develop taste profiles, air conditioners monitor body temperature to maximize personal comfort, retinal scanners detect drunkenness by the dilation of blood vessels in the eye, toilets analyze urine and feces and forward diagnostic information to their users' physicians, and clothes remember when they were worn and what was spilled on them. Pets and some children are chipped with GPS devices so owners and parents can locate them.
Some things stay the same: Mick Jagger is still touring, thanks to regular doses of telomerase activator. In the end, though technology has changed a great deal, people haven't. They still want to live forever, take things that don't belong to them, fall in love with people they shouldn't, do stupid things in the heat of passion, try to protect their loved ones from themselves, and take difficult stands when they know they're right.
Tomas Montero's ancestors came from Mexico 150 years ago, but English was spoken in his upper middle class home, and he didn't learn Spanish until Yale insisted he learn a foreign language. He majored in computer science but found that his enthusiasm for the subject had waned since the days he and his friends would hack game consoles and the school security system. He fell in love with politics while running for student council, and he won a seat in the state legislature while he was still at Stanford Law School. The campaign took so much effort that he would have flunked out without the help of his friend and classmate, Hannah Crane. The bills he passed at the state level launched a political career that took him to the U.S. Congress before his thirtieth birthday. Tom was highly popular with his constituents during two terms there and could have kept his seat indefinitely, but he was driven by ambition to run for governor. He overreached and lost.
Several law firms offered him partnerships, even though he had never practiced law or even passed the bar. Tom, however, didn't have to think twice when he got the offer from his old friend Hannah. He has been successful as a rainmaker and generally raised the profile of the firm, but his role has not been limited to attracting new clients. Tom passed the bar with flying colors and has since thrown himself into practicing law. He keeps one eye open for another chance to run for office, either the Senate or the governorship, which makes some of the partners worry he might place his political aspirations before the good of the firm. Tom's success with women makes Darwin a little envious, but they get along well enough in a comradely arm-punching sort of way.
Hannah Crane remembers watching the family car get repossessed through the window, while on television her father, Peter Crane, received an award from the NAACP. At the time, he had just become famous representing someone afflicted with cerebral palsy who was severely beaten by cops mistaking him for a drunk. With Marty Constable's help, Peter used his fame to transform his practice into a powerhouse that made millions suing hospitals, the police department and large employers who abused the rights of illegal immigrants. Hannah's father blamed the eventual bankruptcy of his firm on a refusal to sell out, but she was old enough to recognize that the real culprits were excess and poor management.
When she graduated from Stanford Law School, she chose to work for Ernst, Galbraith & Witherspoon, a large Los Angeles firm that specialized in defending white-collar criminals with deep pockets. Even there, she could not escape her father's shadow. The partners kept giving her their worker's comp and civil rights work. Hannah didn't blame them--juries responded favorably to her name, and opposing counselors trembled in their boots--but she was tired of getting stuck with the same old cases, and she wanted to make her own mark in the world.
At thirty-eight, she left Ernst, Galbraith & Witherspoon with her fellow junior partner, Darwin McNeil, and tracked down her father's old colleague, Martin Constable, who was busy drinking himself to death on a beach in Hawaii. When her law school friend Tom Montero lost his race for governor, she was able to increase the profile of the firm significantly by convincing him to take a partnership. Since Tom had gone straight from law school into politics, Hannah helped him through the bar exam and his first few cases.
Unsurprisingly, the rigors of starting a new firm proved to be incompatible with her plan to have a child with Roy Burns, a professor at USC. They had screened dozens of zygotes and narrowed their choice down to half a dozen genetic profiles when Roy demanded that she make a choice between the firm and their relationship. Hannah chose the firm, and Roy walked out the door. She has dated other men since, but she has never loved anyone but Roy.
Born in East Los Angeles, Martin Constable was surfing the waves of Malibu before he went to kindergarten. He was the kid everyone knew would go far, and sure enough he won a full scholarship to UCLA. Totally blitzed at parties six nights a week, he still managed to pull down straight A's. Some said he never slept. He attended Loyola Law School and got his first job working for Hannah's father, Peter Crane, whose specialty was defending the poor and downtrodden in high-profile class action suits.
Marty was deeply in love with his first wife, who unfortunately died a few months before the government approved a method of treatment for her cancer. After that, Marty returned to his college lifestyle: working 100 hours a week, drinking himself blind, and crashing his yacht into the dock. He also developed a problem with blondes: he kept proposing to them, and they kept accepting. Ultimately, there were limits to how much money idealistic lawyers could make defending the common man, and when the firm went bankrupt, what did Marty have to show for it? No kids, three alimonies, and a busted yacht.
Hannah found him on a beach in Hawaii, drinking, surfing, and writing the same two pages of a novel over and over again. She offered him a job on the condition that he swear off alcohol, blondes, and marriage. Marty now dates brunettes. They are a third his age, but he makes up for this by dating three at a time.
As a child, Lukas Gold wanted to protect his mother when his father drank too much, so he took up the study of judo and jujitsu. While showing a friend's sister one of his new throws, Lukas held the struggling girl down a moment too long. Though she seemed willing to let the whole incident go, the twelve-year-old Lukas was already mature enough to recognize that he was mimicking his father's behavior. He vowed to spend his life fighting those who abused their power, especially by hurting women. And so Lukas already knew he wanted to be a lawyer before he started high school. He grew into a romantic of the earnest variety, always falling in and out of love with someone new. During sophomore year at Berkeley, a sorority girl named Sarah decided that Lukas would make a good husband with the proper guidance, so she arranged for him to propose. Though Lukas came to regret the early marriage, he never considered going back on his word. If he did not love his wife romantically, he at least felt tender toward her and responsible for her happiness.
As an undergraduate, Lukas landed internships working at law firms around San Francisco, where he performed the duties of fetching bagels and coffee with the same single-minded focus he applied to more serious matters. In his first match on the college boxing team, Lukas was pummeled by a gorilla-armed and more experienced opponent. The coach ordered Lukas to stay down for the count, but Lukas kept dragging himself erect despite bruised ribs, a black eye, a broken nose, and a tooth that had to be regrown. To protect Lukas from serious injury the referee called the match a draw, and the coach promptly threw him off the team.
After law school, also at Berkeley, Lukas joined the L.A. DA's office, where he successfully convicted 31 sex offenders. When he took a job with Crane, Constable, McNeil, & Montero, some of his coworkers grumbled that a fine prosecutor was selling out by going into private practice, and in a way they were right. Succumbing to his wife's gentle but persistent nagging, Lukas had finally accepted that Sarah had a right to expect her lawyer husband to provide her with a better lifestyle. Though he rents a small house in Santa Monica Canyon and sails a boat out of Marina del Rey--visible from Lee May's apartment building on a clear day--Sarah plans for him to sell the boat for a down payment on a larger house in Brentwood.
Lee May Bristol
The Genetic Prototype Project was a highly-classified DoD program attempting to close the "genetics gap" with China by genetically engineering people with immunity to anthrax and other biological warfare agents. While they were at it, the scientists threw in enhanced intelligence, reflexes, strength, and resistance to fatigue. Parents who volunteered a zygote were promised that the upkeep and education of the child would be covered by government stipends. Lee May's parents were intrigued by the prospect of raising a superior version of themselves. Though nearly everything came easily to Lee May, her parents were obsessed with making her "live up to her potential." In high school, she triple-lettered every year, won academic bowl competitions almost single-handedly, and was nominated both Homecoming Queen and valedictorian. Passing up an offer to ski on the Olympic team, she concentrated in math, biology, and English at Harvard, graduating summa cum laude. She had her pick of law schools and chose Yale because of her interest in public policy. During her first summer internship, Lee May worked for Crane, Constable, McNeil & Montero, who were handling a political corruption case at the time. She felt so comfortable with the partners that, after editing the law review and graduating at the top of her class, she chose to join them in Century City. Lee May has an enormous IQ and needs less than three hours of sleep a night, but she makes an effort not to bruise the fragile egos of macho men who can't keep up. She doesn't want anyone to learn she is genetically modified, knowing by experience that some will blame her more for her failures and praise her less for her successes, while others will react with fear and suspicion. The GPP, concerned that its genetic experiments might have created modifications harmful to the human race, made her and her fellow experimental subject sterile. Hoping to escape the feeling that she does not deserve credit for her accomplishments, Lee May tries to develop aspects of herself the GPP did not tamper with, so she performs sketch comedy and hovertaps, though she's still pretty wretched at both.
Darwin McNeil was the youngest of four boys born to a middle-class couple in Cleveland, Ohio. When Darwin tried to imitate his bigger, more athletic brothers' repeated successes with the ladies, he inevitably got shot down. But he came into his own at the University of Chicago, where some girls appreciated his self-deprecating sarcasm and total disregard for the niceties of political correctness; others found those qualities annoying in the extreme. Actually, the women who liked Darwin assumed he was being ironic when he said offensive things that he meant entirely. Darwin devised a strategy whereby he became friends with unattractive but outgoing girls with the expectation that they would bring him into contact with prettier girls who would let him have sex with them. Though the strategy was sound in principle, it didn't work in practice. Darwin just found himself hanging out a lot with girls.
He decided that what he lacked was money, and since talking was the only thing he was good at, Darwin became a lawyer. He attended Northwestern Law School and gradually rose to a junior partnership in the Los Angeles office of Ernst, Galbraith & Witherspoon, where he worked on several cases with Hannah Crane, an excellent example of the self-assured women who found Darwin amusing rather than offensive, but were not in the least tempted to sleep with him. When she offered him a partnership in her new firm, Darwin had enough faith in her to take a risk on the venture. During their first year of practice, he chewed through seven assistants who filed a joint suit for harassment. Darwin couldn't understand what they objected to, but Hannah insisted that henceforth he work with a non-human virtual assistant. Darwin has a better relationship with this computer program than any woman in his life. When he mentioned this to his therapist, she urged him to look within himself for the answer. Darwin had no idea what she was talking about, but he is otherwise very perceptive and honest with himself, qualities that serve him well in court. He lives for the natural high of tearing into opposing counsels' witnesses and making grown men weep with pity in the jury box.