Between July and October a new series was aired on the WGN network in America 
(whatever that is) that I started watching when I first heard about it but then 
got busy and put it aside. Well, recently I finally had time to go back and 
binge-watch it, and have come away so impressed that I felt I had to review it 

The title of the series -- "Manhattan" -- refers not to the island or the city 
or the Woody Allen movie, but to one of the most monumental science projects 
ever. In 1943, with WWII still raging, 200+ of America's best physicists and 
engineers were uprooted from their normal homes and moved out into the 
gawdawful barrenness of the New Mexico high desert, near Los Alamos. There, in 
a camp that resembled a prison camp more than a modern science lab, they set 
about trying to invent the atomic bomb. 

Some of you might react to this as the basis for a TV series with "Ho hum." We 
all know, after all, that they *succeeded* in inventing that bomb. So on one 
level there is as little anticipatory drama available to hang plots on as there 
is with the sinking of the Titanic. Still, in the world of cinema and TV, it's 
HOW you tell the story that makes a film like "A Night To Remember" a 
forgettable potboiler and James Cameron's "Titanic" one of the biggest 
blockbusters in history. 

"Manhattan" is never going to be a blockbuster, partly because it's too smart 
for most American audiences. I was interested in the story because my 
grandfather actually worked on this project -- not in New Mexico but back in 
Princeton with Einstein. But I'd heard through him and others some of the 
stories of what life was like for those who *did* design the bomb there, so I 
was interested in seeing it. 

What I didn't expect was for WGN (again, whoever they are) to do such a good 
job of telling the stories. These are some of the smartest people on Earth, 
penned up in (basically) a prison camp and spied on by their own military 24/7. 
John Benjamin Hickey does a *tremendous* job of portraying the leader of the 
"implosion" group (competing for money and resources against the "gun-type" 
group), and Olivia Williams (from "Dollhouse") does as great a job of 
portraying his long-suffering wife. Ashley Zukerman is equally great as the 
young, brilliant scientist torn between the two groups and trying to deal with 
his new wife (Rachel Brosnahan) while unable to even tell her what he's working 

The series is best when it focuses on the pressures these scientists were 
under, and the toll that pressure took on them physically and mentally. On one 
level, they were racing against the Germans, who were trying to invent their 
own bomb, so there was pressure on that level -- several thousand U.S. soldiers 
died on battlefields every day they didn't come up with a solution. But on a 
more important, everyday level, the real pressure came from being spied upon by 
American agents at every moment. That part of the story has never really been 
told before, and "Manhattan" the series tells it well. 

HIGHLY recommended for Salyavin and others who love science, as soon as it 
comes out on DVD or is released on Netflix or whatever. And for others who 
enjoy great, character-driven drama, I think you'd like it, too. 


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