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 here.
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 on. 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. MANHATTAN - New Series | TRAILER | HD | | | | | | | | | | | MANHATTAN - New Series | TRAILER | HD | | | | View on www.youtube.com | Preview by Yahoo | | | | |