(AMC+/fubo/VOD)? I honestly don’t know how many folks are familiar with WGN as a channel. If you live in the midwest, you know WGN, as it’s a local Chicago network and probably broadcasts to you. (Well, if you have an antennae or cable box.) They went national in the 80s — I have a vague recollection of watching Godzilla marathons on holiday weekends via their NYC affiliate, but I may be misremembering that.
Anyway, a handful of years ago, they decided to branch out into prestige television and produced the amazing, underrated UNDERGROUND series (created by Misha Green, who just wrapped up LOVECRAFT COUNTRY). MANHATTAN was the second of their big dramatic swings.
MANHATTAN is a deep dive into the community created by the US military to develop the first atomic bomb. A nerdy DEADWOOD, if you will. It’s a story of divisive opinions, splintered factions, and tawdry affairs — quintessential historical dramatic prestige TV — and while it had a number of asshole, self-important male protagonists, it also had Katja Herbers (currently on CBS’ underrated EVIL) as Helen Prins, Rachel Brosnahan (MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL), and Olivia Williams (RUSHMORE, DOLLHOUSE) as smart women who refuse to be wallflowers. (Oh, and Mamie Gummer — Meryl Streep’s daughter — shows up in the second season in a role I will not divulge.)
The show occasionally feels a bit overburdened by everything it’s trying to accomplish: domestic drama, espionage thriller, docudrama, scientific intrigue, etc. but ultimately it’s more than the sum of its parts, not just because of the brilliant cast, but the stable of writers (including Lila Byock, who wrote some of the best parts of THE LEFTOVERS -and- WATCHMEN).
Sadly, even if MANHATTAN’s ratings were good (they were not), they still would’ve been canceled as WGN were sold off by Chicago’s Tribune Corp. and purchased by the conservative Sinclair Media Group, which had designs to turn WGN into a right-wing news outlet, and all original programming was shuttered. (WGN is now currently owned by Nexstar, another conservative outlet, but instead of hewing towards news, they’ve basically turned WGN into another TV nostalgia channel. Yay, capitalism.)
Season one trailer:
Season two ‘first look’ (kinda spoilers for S1?):