Person of Interest is an American science fiction crime drama television series that aired on CBS from September 22, 2011, to June 21, 2016. Its five seasons comprise 103 episodes. The series was created by Jonathan Nolan; executive producers were Nolan, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Greg Plageman, Denise Thé, and Chris Fisher.
The series centers on a mysterious reclusive billionaire computer programmer, Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), who has developed a computer program for the federal government known as "The Machine" that is capable of collating all sources of information to predict terrorist acts and to identify people planning them. The Machine also identifies perpetrators and victims of other premeditated deadly crimes; however, because the government considers these "irrelevant", Finch programs the Machine to delete this information each night. Anticipating abuse of his creation, Finch included a backdoor into the Machine. Tormented by the "irrelevant" deaths that might have been prevented, he eventually decides to use his backdoor to act covertly. To escape detection, he directs the Machine to provide him with only a tiny fragment of its data: the social security number of such a "person of interest". This may be a victim, a perpetrator, or an innocent bystander caught up in lethal events. The first episode shows how Finch recruited John Reese (Jim Caviezel)—a former Green Beret and CIA agent, now presumed dead—to investigate the person identified by the number the Machine has provided, and to act accordingly. As time passes, others join the team.
From its first episode, the series raises an array of moral issues, from questions of privacy and "the greater good", the concept of justifiable homicide, and problems caused by working with limited information program. At the end of the program's first season, Finch discovers that the Machine has achieved sentience, introducing questions, from human oversight and other issues inherent in the use of artificial intelligence, to the complex ethical questions which the series addresses.
Some critics elevated their already positive opinions of the series to the level of high praise when the program introduced multiple ongoing story arcs and deepened its speculations on the power and implications of superintelligent artificial intelligence. In 2016, writing on io9, Katharine Trendacosta noted that by the end of its first season, Person of Interest had been transformed from a "crime-fighting show" with an entertaining plot device into "one of the best science-fiction series ever broadcast". Trendacosta wrote that this was because the first-season finale "put the Machine, its intelligence, and the ethics of […] using it at the center of an ideological battle", and gave the Machine a voice of its own. The show won the 2012 People's Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama and the 2016 People's Choice Award for Favorite TV Crime Drama.